The Minnesota Court of Appeals released a new opinion today that might surprise you, although it comes as no surprise to us. It opens the door for officers to stop vehicles if the vehicle was originally equipped with unnecessary components that have been removed by the owner.
In this particular case, the owner had removed the light bulb and plastic cover from the center rear brake light of his vehicle. An officer noticed that the remnants of the housing was still present and pulled over the vehicle for having an “inoperable” center brake light. While Minnesota law does NOT require a vehicle to be equipped with a center rear brake light, officers are allowed to stop vehicles when any equipped light is burned out, even if it isn’t legally required. (That is another case we have disagreed with since it was released years ago.) But this new case extends that old ruling to include situations like this one where the owner decides to remove the bulb completely and part of the housing with the intent to simply not use the originally equipped (but not legally required) light.
This case is yet another step down the path that erodes Minnesotan’s individual rights and the freedom to live life without police interference. It is important to realize that every trip you make in a motor vehicle is an invitation for law enforcement to find a minor technical reason to stop you and ask you what you’re doing, observe the readily visible contents of your vehicle, ask you where you came from and where you’re going, see who you’re with, ask for your ID & insurance, and make other observations of your physical demeanor and behavior. You are NOT obligated to participate in their investigations or answer their questions, and you can do so politely. If you end up being the subject of one of these fishing expeditions and are now facing charges, please contact us so we can plan the proper defense with you.