NJ Supreme Court strikes a blow against pre-textual traffic stops

Pre-textual traffic stops are instances where police stop you for something relatively minor — say, an “illegal” air freshener hanging from your rear view mirror — in order to see if they can find something more serious for which they can arrest you.

In practice these stops have often been used by racist cops to stop brown and black people in percentages far larger than what you might find according to the per capita local non-white population.

The NJ Supreme court has handed down a decision that severely limits law enforcement efforts to stop people for alleged tinted window violations because, as it turns out, police and prosecutors were using the tinted window statutes in ways that were improper to begin with:

A 2018 traffic stop for a tinted rear window, which led Trenton detectives to file gun charges against the driver, was unconstitutional, New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

State motor vehicle law is clear that tinting, or “non-transparent material,” is not allowed on the front windshield and front-side windows of vehicles, but it does not cover rear windows, the state Supreme Court ruled.

As a result, police did not have enough suspicion for the stop that led to the gun charge.

In the decision, the high court batted around the issue of tinted vehicle windows — even citing the dictionary — following oral arguments from the state Public Defender’s Office and two amicus curiae, or friends of the court, participants that argued the tinted windows statute is unconstitutionally vague.

The article also notes that prosecutors, once they eventually realized that they did put the original defendant in prison wrongfully, immediately vacated his conviction in an effort to stop the case from going to the NJ Supreme Court.

That ploy didn’t work, and the NJ high court decided to take up the case anyway.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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