Broken Windshield Traffic Stop Leads to Marijuana Possession Bust
It was recently reported that a Dover woman was arrested for marijuana possession following a traffic stop for a broken windshield. According to the New Jersey Herald, an officer patrolling Route 46 pulled over a silver Toyota because of the cracked windshield, but while speaking to the driver, spotted marijuana leaves on the floor boards. The driver consented to a search, which led to the discovery of a package containing marijuana.
This case should serve as a cautionary tale for all New Jersey drivers who simply want to get where they’re going without interference from authorities, and especially for those who might be carrying contraband substances. An equipment violation is a legitimate reason for an officer to make a traffic stop. Common equipment violations for which police can stop you include:
- Cracked windshield — Technically, a cracked windshield violates NJ Revised Statutes § 39:3-74, which states “No person shall drive any vehicle so constructed, equipped or loaded as to unduly interfere with the driver’s vision to the front and to the sides.” Whether a crack in the windshield obscures the driver’s vision unduly is a question of fact to be argued in court, but an officer only has to have a reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
- Tinted windshield and front windows — Tinting has been held to violate § 39:3-74, especially for night driving.
- Objects dangling from rearview mirror — If your fuzzy dice are too big, you might be in violation of § 39:3-74.
- Windshield-mounted GPS — Be careful where you stick your cellphone to get directions — you might violate § 39:3-74.
- Blown taillights or headlights — All of your lamps must be operational, or you risk being stopped.
- Failure to use headlights while windshield wipers are operating — This state law is widely ignored, but if police choose to enforce it against you, you will be stopped.
- Covering parts of the license plate — Decorative frames that obscure any written part of your plate are a violation.
Criminal defense attorneys rely on violations of police procedure, such as unlawful traffic stops and searches, to get drug evidence dismissed. It is also against your interest to consent to a search of your car, whether or not you’re transporting contraband. When a driver gives an officer a reason to pull the car over and then consents to a search, drug evidence will most likely be admitted. At that point, it becomes very difficult to do anything other than plea-bargain.