Where the basis for a traffic stop is slow driving, California courts have held that slow driving alone is not sufficient grounds for a detention unless one is impeding traffic. People v Pacheco (where the driver was driving 27mph in a 40mph zone). The court reasoned that one commits no crime by driving slower than the maximum allowable speed.
The law on cracked windshields is governed by California Vehicle Code section 26710. The statute indicates that the operation of a motor vehicle with a cracked windshield or rear window is unlawful when it is "in such a defective condition as to impair the driver's vision either to the front or rear." Accordingly, where a traffic stop is made solely for a cracked windshield, the defendant may successfully defend his or her case where the crack does not "impair the driver's vision." Usually, this requires that the crack be minimal or away from the driver's direct field of vision.
The law on tinted windows is governed by California Vehicle Code section 26708. People v Butler held that an officer has no basis to conclude that the windows of a vehicle are tinted more than allowed by law when he only observes the car from a distance and as it speeds by him. Moreover, People v Hanes held that a vehicle detention based solely on violation of CVC 26708 is lawful only where windows are tinted so dark that police cannot see the occupants of the vehicle.
Objects Hanging From Rearview Mirror
The law on hanging objects is governed by California Vehicle Code section 26708. For a traffic stop based solely on violation of this code section, the officer must have an objectively reasonable basis to believe that the object is obstructing or reducing the driver's clear view through the windshield or side windows. Defending this type of case may require the assistance of an expert. In People v White the court held that the traffic stop was unconstitutional where the defense attorney put a civil engineer on the stand to testify that the hanging object in question covered less than .05% of the windshield's total surface area. However, in the more recent case of People v Colbert the court ruled that such a traffic stop was constitutional where the officer identified specific and articulable facts in support of the traffic stop.
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