Lynx star stopped by cops for air freshener

The air-freshener-off-the-rear-view-mirror crime has apparently nabbed Minnesota Lynx star Seimone Augustus.

Augustus, who is black, is tweeting today that she was stopped in Roseville for having the air freshener — which is technically a violation of the law — but was then quizzed because of alleged crime in the area.

In many cases, police aren’t all that concerned about air fresheners; they’re looking for a legal reason to stop a motorist.

The air freshener justification for being stopped by police has been widely cited by those who are convinced they were stopped for “driving while black.” The illegal air freshener gives police the probable cause to stop a car beyond the possibility they were actually stopped for their race, according to the ACLU. Frequently, police search the vehicles.

It’s all perfectly legal. The Supreme Court said so in 1996.

In 2008, a federal appeals court ruled that a driver can be stopped for up to 30 minutes when pulled over for air fresheners. And last year, an immigration case in Illinois hinged on the air freshener debate. It, too, was upheld.

Here’s how the law reads in the state:


169.71 WINDSHIELD.

Subdivision 1.Prohibitions generally; exceptions.

(a) A person shall not drive or operate any motor vehicle with:

(1) a windshield cracked or discolored to an extent to limit or obstruct proper vision;

(2) any objects suspended between the driver and the windshield, other than:

(i) sun visors;

(ii) rearview mirrors;

(iii) driver feedback and safety-monitoring equipment when mounted immediately behind, slightly above, or slightly below the rearview mirror;

(iv) global positioning systems or navigation systems when mounted or located near the bottommost portion of the windshield; and

(v) electronic toll collection devices; or

(3) any sign, poster, or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, sidewings, or side or rear windows of the vehicle, other than a certificate or other paper required to be so displayed by law or authorized by the state director of the Division of Emergency Management or the commissioner of public safety.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Probable cause is a tool that can be used either to Protect and Serve or to racially profile.

    Perhaps that’s why God invented lawyers. And good journalists. (OK, everybody knows that God didn’t invent lawyers :-)

  • Brad

    The police are relying on their actions being relatively anonymous in order to use contrived stops for searching, or failing that, intimidating people they feel are a criminal risk. If you make their actions known, as Ms Augustus did, particularly if you include details such as the officer’s name and badge number, you remove the veil of anonymity and their actions will change.

  • auntie smedley

    That is insane. I have had a little stuffed opossum hanging from my rear view mirror for at least 5 years and have never once been stopped for it! Then again, I only drive while white.

  • Hillary

    I had no idea my Current window cling was illegal.

  • John Kysylyczyn

    I had a person who claimed to me that they were racially profiled. I got the call because I was the mayor at the time.

    They claimed that they were pulled over because they were black.

    I asked them what time of the day were they pulled over. They responded 9pm, which at that time of the year was pitch black night.

    I asked them why they were pulled over. Expired license tabs.

    Having junk hanging from the rear view mirror is a distraction. Having junk obstructing your rear window is also a distraction.

    The rules seem pretty easy to follow and they make sense.

  • Bob Collins

    But you’re missing a rather important element of the story, Mr. Mayor.

    If you’re pulled over for having an air freshener off the rear view mirror, and then someone starts questioning you about thefts in the neighborhood, the chances are pretty good you weren’t *really* pulled over for the air freshener, you were probably pulled over because you look like the type of person who’d pull off some thefts.

    What type of person would that be? When’s the last time a white person got pulled over for having rosary beads or a Christian medallion off the rear view mirror?

    What you’re talking about here is essentially a warrantless search.

  • Suzanne

    Ugh! Did they search, too? I hope she got the cop’s name and badge. What ever happened to civil rights?

  • BJ

    I’d be interested in a photo of this air freshener.

  • Bob Collins
  • David Poretti

    I’ve been stopped by a police officer because of an “Impeach Bush” sign in the rear window on the driver’s side. He told me that it was illegal to have anything on that window. I asked him about the “Baby on Board” sign in the car parked across street from us. He told me he wouldn’t write me a ticket, this time, but I should take it off when I get home. I stopped by the Bloomington city hall / police department and asked about the sticker. They said it was perfectly legal, and that the officer was out of line. My step son was stopped because he had a bumper sticker supporting a specific team. He was told that bumper sticker is popular with a certain gang. The trooper detained him, waiting for a warrant to search his car and trunk. After waiting about 45 minutes and talking to a lawyer, my step son gave him permission to search. Of course, nothing was found, becasue there was nothing to find. My step son did video the search, just in case. The lesson learned – if a cop wants to stop you, they will alwyas find a reason.

  • BJ

    @Suzanne – yes she did (get name and badge #). She also tweeted it. Not sure why Bob left that out. Maybe it was after he grabbed the rest of the tweets.

    BTW – google “routine traffic stop”, lots of pro’s and con’s can be found on first page.

  • Cara

    And then he said good luck in the game!

    Whenever we see a traffic stop my daughter’s will always look to see if it’s a DWB (driving while black) or DWA (driving while asian) or DWH (driving while hispanic).

  • Gary

    I must be the only white person in MN who has ever been pulled over for the air freshener on the rear-view mirror. I had been working outside, it was cold, I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, hood on. Was I profiled? Probably. As soon as the officer came to the window and saw my white face, he told me to remove the air freshener and have a nice day.

  • Suzanne

    //the air freshener or any other vehicle violation — is probable cause

    It’s PC to pull over the car, not PC to search. When you wrote that it was a warrantless search, it sounded like the cop searched her car. He can’t do that on just an air freshener. If he didn’t search, then it’s still a pretextual stop.

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t know if they searched in this case or not but what often happens is cops ask permission to search with the suggestion that if they do, they won’t get the ticket for the air freshener. So the driver reluctantly agrees. I don’t if something out in plane sight in a car stopped legally constitutes probable cause, though.

  • Ron Green

    Just take the stuff of the front mirror and move on. It’s against the law.

    No other comments need to be made about this “incident”!!!!!!!!

  • Bob Collins

    To be sure, it’s not a situation that many white people can understand. For the most part, they can drive anywhere they want.

    But, again, this is a method that is often used to stop people because of their color or ethnicity, fitting a mysterious profile of a criminal.

    It’s not about air fresheners.

  • Edward Obeda

    Living in Roseville these days, I certainly understand that these people would be looked at. You have to look at the population of all at city hall. I do not believe that there are many black working there, if any.

  • John Kysylyczyn

    Bob Collins, I’m missing nothing. There is more to the story than I bothered getting into. But since you asked, let me provide you more perspective.

    You are at police officer patrolling Rosedale, the number one retail crime magnet in Roseville. Not surprising because they have more retail there than any place in Roseville. Thefts occur daily, probably hourly at times.

    You see a vehicle with out of state plates driving around. Not ordinary out of state plates like Wisconsin or Iowa, places that you can get to in 30 minutes to a few hours. No you see a vehicle with an out of state license plate from a place that is a 3 to 4 day drive away.

    You also know that a lot of this retail crime isn’t high school kids lifting pencils, it is organized groups that move from state to state in many cases.

    You probably have had two or three calls already concerning retail crime. You may even have several vehicle descriptions to look out for, because before they came to Rosedale, they hit Target or some other location earlier in the day or the day before.

    You now see this way out of state vehicle traveling around a retail crime magnet with who knows what hanging from the rear view mirror. A violation of the law for over 40 years in this state, and most likely a violation of the law in every state.

    You make a legitimate stop. You approach the car and observe the demeanor of the driver. You talk with them. You smell to determine if there are narcotics. You look into the vehicle for visible illegal substances. Ask a few questions. Quickly the officer sees that the only issue is the rear view mirror hanging tag. It could have easily been much more. The NBA star is quickly on her way.

    The officer is nice in that he does not write her what would be a $100 ticket even though he could have easily done so. No evidence the officer ordered her out of the car, yelled at her, treated her rudely, started tossing the car, run the drug dogs through it, or anything of the sort. The only person who appears to be bent out of shape is the NBA star.

    She figures that she has a 25,000 following on her Twitter account and maybe can make some hay out of this. So she puts out one side of the story. Followers jump on board without hearing both sides. Typical human behavior unfortunately. Media has a field day with it. Generates newspaper sales and clicks on online ads.

    As a side note, I am puzzled why a Minnesota NBA star has license plates from Louisiana anyways? So she doesn’t reside in Minnesota?

  • John Kysylyczyn

    Also Bob Collins, you need to do some legal research on what a warrantless search actually is.

    From the information provided in the article, I don’t believe that a search was even conducted.

    Where does it say that she personally or her vehicle was searched? Or are you just making this up?

  • Bob Collins

    What you’ve just described, Mr. Mayor, — and almost perfectly so — is profiling. But what you left out of your description that included an out of state license plate is that the driver was black and it’s well documented in Minnesota that more black drivers are stopped than white drivers on a percentage basis. It’s also well documented that police are more likely to find contraband in the car of those white drivers who are stopped than they are the black drivers who are stopped. You’ll want to read the 2003 racial profiling survey done on a volunteer basis by some departments — I don’t believe Roseville was one but perhaps they were — at the behest of the legislature.

    So drivers are being stopped not only because they have out-of-state license plates (do the Roseville police think most of the crime is being perpetrated by people from Louisiana?), but because they’re black.

    And that’s racial profiling and as the court cases I cited pointed out, that’s legal, you just need the one thing that provides the legal cover and that’s where air fresheners come into the picture.

    // Where does it say that she personally or her vehicle was searched? Or are you just making this up?

    She didn’t say the car was searched, nor did I say the car was searched, in fact I said I specifically don’t know if the car was searched.

    I

    But you’re talking about one incident and I’m talking about a well documented pattern of — legal — profiling that uses the air freshener as the excuse for the stop and as I’ve already indicated several times, most of the times it ‘s not about the air freshener as the legal cases I’ve cited have indicated.

    Also as I indicated, if it were about the air freshener, there wouldn’t be talk about crime in the city. This also fits the pattern. But I’m repeating myself.

    She has Louisiana plates because she lives in Louisiana. She plays in Minnesota for only four or five months out of the year; and she spends the offseason playing basketball in Moscow.

    But, really, that’s not any of anyone’s business. She has legal Louisiana plates, she’s driving a properly registered car and if she looks out of place in Roseville for the obvious reasons, well, that’s really too bad for Roseville.

    The minute the questioning turned to crime — or even what a black woman with –Louisiana plate was doingin the area — the pretext of the stop was more or less betrayed.

    And it’s all perfectly legal.

    White people don’t get stopped because they’re white, generally speaking (see a person pulled over for rosary beads lately?) and black people get stopped because they’re black and more than a few white people find themselves asking, “what’s the big deal?”

  • John Kysylyczyn

    Bob Collins. Are you serious with this profiling claim? Huh? Pulling someone over for a blatant and obvious violation of the law is profiling? Wow…

    On Patch, I was informed that the officer who pulled her over was Asian. So are you now going to modify your claim and start saying that Asian-Americans are profiling African-Americans? Or are you now going to start claiming that everyone in a blue uniform profiles African-Americans?

    So while ignorance of the law is no defense, apparently the claim of profiling is?

    Thanks for the statistical lesson, but please don’t apply other city’s statistics to my city.

    You were the one who claimed warrantless search. I asked you to back that up. Still waiting…

    So the NBA star works half the year in Minnesota, the other half in Moscow. She appears to make no money and barely lives in Louisiana but claims residency there? Must be good tax breaks down there.

    That claim that white people don’t get stopped is BS. I have been stopped by about 25 different police departments in about 6 states. Every time I was stopped while driving White. Several times it was the fact that muscle cars attract the police no matter what the color of the driver is. I got one ticket over 20 years ago for going 35 in a 30. Am I screaming “profiling”? No.

    The last time I got stopped was by the Iowa State Police about two months ago. He greeted me and asked me the ages of my children. After I told him, he thanked me and told me to have a nice day. It took me a minute to figure out what this was about and then it dawned on me that Iowa probably has a different child seat requirement than Minnesota has. He saw my MN plates and wanted to make sure I was following IA law.

    In my opinion, the officer should have known that one of my kids didn’t need a child seat. I had the roof down and it wasn’t difficult to see inside. But I give the benefit of the doubt unless I have good reason to think otherwise. He had a legitimate reason to stop me. It was for public safety purposes. It turns out that I was not violating any law. He was polite and doing his job. I was detained for a minute at most.

  • Bob Collins

    Please get back to me after you’ve carefully read what I’ve written so far, all of the court cases that help explain the legal questions surrounding the nationwide practice and particularly the articles, one of which describes how one cop was taught how to cover a pretext with the air fresheners so that strawman arguments are not wasting anyone’s time. Thanks.