US Marijuana Party

Thursday, July 13, 2006

That's a hanging offense

Ravenna police pull over driver for having air freshener dangling from mirror

By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer

Charles Kay never thought that smelling berry fresh was a problem.

Until last week.

While cruising along state Route 14 around noon in Ravenna, Kay was pulled over by police. He found the traffic stop puzzling. He wasn't speeding. He hadn't gone through a traffic light. He wasn't swerving.

The officer pointed to the small, leaf-shaped air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror, politely telling him to remove it because it was obstructing his view of the road -- a legal no-no. After looking over Kay's license and registration, the officer let him off with a warning.

``I think it's ridiculous,'' said Kay, 42, of Edinburg Township in Portage County. ``I could understand if my vision really was obstructed.''

Motorists may not realize it, but having air fresheners, parking passes, fuzzy dice, beads, hats, rosaries, handcuffs or garters hanging from rearview mirrors may be an invitation -- a flimsy and improper one, according to civil-rights groups -- for police to stop your vehicle. Ohio law requires drivers to have an unobstructed view of the roadway, meaning anything hanging from a rearview mirror is a potential misdemeanor.

The State Highway Patrol issued 23 citations last year involving the rearview mirror law and seven so far this year.

But Jeff Gamso, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said any traffic stop based solely on a small item dangling from a mirror would be improper.

``There's no question about it,'' Gamso said. ``It's not even a close call.''

Police will make up any reason to justify a traffic stop, Gamso added. He said some police surmise that air fresheners are masking odors such as marijuana.


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