Can Maryland Police Pull You Over for an Air Freshener? Daunte Wright, Pulled Over for an Air Freshener and Killed in Minnesota.

A story that we wanted to bring attention to was the death of Daunte Wright, who was tragically killed by police in a Minneapolis, Minnesota suburb in April of 2021.  While the exact reason for the stop of Wright’s vehicle has been questioned, it appears that the stop was due, at least in part, to an air freshener that Wright had hanging from his rearview mirror.  The officer who shot and killed Wright has since resigned and is currently being charged with second-degree manslaughter.

In Maryland, police call legally pull you over if they see you committing a traffic infraction (such as running a red light or speeding) or if your vehicle is non-compliant with the traffic laws in Maryland (such as displaying an expired registration or having illegally tinted windows).

What happened to Daunte Wright has some of our clients to ask us about whether or not a police officer in Maryland could pull them over for an object, such as an air freshener or a face mask dangling from their rear-view mirror?  The answer is MAYBE.  In Maryland, Transportation Article § 21-1104 governs items hanging from one’s rearview mirror.  The relevant portion of the statute states:

  • A person may not drive a vehicle on a highway with any object, material, or obstruction hanging from the rearview mirror that interferes with the clear view of the driver through the windshield.
  • A police officer may enforce this paragraph only as a secondary action when the police officer detains a driver of a motor vehicle for a suspected violation of another provision of the Code.

The law in Maryland is that you cannot be pulled over for having an air freshener or face mask dangling from your rearview mirror if that is the ONLY infraction that a police officer witnesses, but an officer can pull you over for having an object hanging from your rearview mirror if they ALSO witness you commit another traffic infraction, like speeding, running a stop sign, or talking on a cell phone while driving.

Our advice? We frequently recommend to clients that they remove dark tints from their windows, remove frames from their license plates, remove decals in their windows, make sure all lights (front, rear, and brake are working).

At Cochran & Chhabra, we have successfully assisted our clients with contesting traffic tickets, as well as stops of their vehicle based on traffic infractions. Call or text us today at 410-268-5515 if you or a loved one needs help with a traffic stop or traffic matter.

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