You’ve seen it. You may have done it yourself. You may have something hanging from it right now. Objects hanging from your rearview mirror can get you pulled over by law enforcement in Minnesota. The rearview mirror is a popular place to hang your face mask, lanyards, beads, or anything else that serves your fancy. Which is all fine and dandy, unless you want to avoid getting pulled over by a cop. For those looking to avoid a DWI arrest, invasive drug searches, harassment from police, or just a plain citation, it is strongly advisable to remove whatever trinkets hanging from your rearview mirror.
Minnesota law states a person shall not drive a vehicle with “any objects suspended between the driver and the windshield” except for the following:
- sun visors;
- rearview mirrors;
- driver feedback and safety monitoring equipment, if mounted immediately behind or slightly above or below the rearview mirror;
- GPS and navigation systems when mounted or located near the bottommost portion of the windshield;
- electronic toll collection devices; and
- other transportation devices when mounted or located near the bottommost portion of the windshield.
None of those exceptions include objects hanging from the rearview mirror. In DWI cases, and drug possession cases initiated in a car, the first analysis of whether law enforcement followed proper protocol, is to evaluate the basis for the traffic stop. They are not allowed to pull over vehicles based on a “mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity.” But, officers only need reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity to perform a stop. Stopping a driver for an object suspended from a rearview mirror is a popular one. The officer does not even need to prove that the object obstructed the driver’s view out of the windshield.
In Gerding v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, a driver challenged the basis for a traffic stop in a DWI case. The defense argued that even though the object was suspended from the rearview mirror, it did not obstruct the view of the driver. In an exercise of statutory interpretation and Fourth-Amendment analysis, the court determined the statute was not ambiguous. The plain meaning prohibits all suspended objects not covered by the specific exceptions. Therefore, the driver’s constitutional rights were not violated.
That infraction by itself is just a minor traffic violation. It only becomes a bigger deal when the officer suspects you of an additional offense, such as DWI or drug possession. Furthermore, you do not want to give the officers any reason to justify a traffic stop that will undoubtedly impact your plans for the day. While it is encouraging people are driving around with face masks in tow, hanging it from your rearview mirror is not the best location for it.
Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense attorney and DWI lawyer in Minnesota. Super Lawyers named him a Rising Star for the past five years; and the National Trial Lawyer’s Organization named him a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer the past seven years. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and Hamline Mitchell School of Law. DWI Attorney Woodbury MN; Criminal Defense Attorney Minnesota; and DWI Lawyer Twin Cities.