Can a Police Officer Stop Someone for an Obtructed Windshield in Maryland?

Maryland Traffic Stop for Something Hanging From the Rear-view Mirror
So, what exactly is the law for having a hang-tag, air freshener, fuzzy dice (does anyone have these anymore?), graduation tassel, or any other object hanging from a vehicle’s rear view mirror? Maryland law prohibiting obstruction of a windshield, Transportation Article 21-1104(c), states that “a person may not drive a vehicle on a highway with any object, material, or obstruction so located in or on the vehicle as to interfere with the clear view of the driver through the windshield.”

Does this mean that any object, no matter what, hanging from the rear-view mirror is grounds for a police officer issuing a traffic stop/citation in Maryland? No, that’s not it. The law is unclear regarding whether anything can be the basis for the stop. The law states that the object must “interfere with the clear view” of the driver. Obviously, this is a matter of interpretation–certain objects, based on their size, color, reflective properties, etc. may be more distracting and cause an interference with the clear view of the driver, while other objects just may be too small or unassuming to pose any sort of threat of interference. The law is unsettled and unclear as to what constitutes an obstruction and what doesn’t.

So, if the law is unclear, what does that mean I should do in the future?
Well, to be totally safe you should not drive with anything hanging from the rear-view mirror. If you need to have a handicapped tag or parking tag be sure to take it off while you are driving and put it on when you are parked. Otherwise you are running the risk of a police officer pulling you over and issuing a citation based on his or her interpretation of the law (or worse, if there is contraband in the car). To absolutely be on the safe side, for now you do not want to have anything hanging.

If I have already been stopped and this is the basis for a citation or criminal charge, can I fight this?
Absolutely! If this is just a citation you should consult an attorney and see if it is worth fighting the citation. If you are charged with a criminal offense (possession of drugs, gun, etc.) based on a traffic stop for an obstructed windshield, you should contact a criminal defense attorney IMMEDIATELY! I have fought and won traffic cases and gotten drugs suppressed for my clients in the past because of the uncertainty of the law and the ability to argue that the law is ambiguous and does not cover the specific object hanging from the rear-view mirror. To contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti for a free consultation regarding your obstructed windshield case, call 301-875-3472.

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