Excuses to Get Pulled Over in Arizona

There’s a big issue looming on traffic stops in Arizona, including in the Flagstaff area, relating to GPS devices.

Many rental cars, and tourists in general, place GPS devices on their windshields to provide directions on how to get to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Flagstaff, Lake Powell, and other destinations. And they get pulled over by the police. The Arizona statute at issue is going to be this one:

Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person shall not operate a motor vehicle with an object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed or applied on the windshield or side or rear windows or with an object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed or applied in or on the motor vehicle in a manner that obstructs or reduces a driver’s clear view through the windshield or side or rear windows.

A.R.S. section 28-959.01(B).

This law also refers to tinted windows. Of course, tinted windows were a big source of litigation on Fourth Amendment issues. So what changed? Not the law! This law has been in effect, unchanged, since 1996.

What changed is technology. Nobody had windshield GPS devices in 1996. Now every rental car company offers them. Most tourists have them. Even locals have them. What happens is this. Officers observe the GPS unit on the windshield. They suspect you’re a drug courier, or you’re DUI, and they want to investigate.

They use the GPS device as a reason to pull you over, to “investigate” if it’s obstructing or reducing the driver’s clear view through the windshield or side or rear windows. Then they move forward with the real motivation for the stop: drugs and alcohol.

You get charged with a crime. And me? I challenge the stop and move to preclude all evidence obtained thereafter.

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