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Small crack in your windshield? Police can't pull you over in Minnesota, court rules

Unless it's obstructing your vision, police need another reason to pull you over.

Here's a piece of Minnesota driving law to bear in mind: a small crack in your windshield doesn't give police the right to pull you over.

That's according to a decision issued on Monday by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in the 2016 case of James Poehler.

Poehler was initially stopped in Cambridge, Minnesota because of his windshield, and was then found to not be wearing a seatbelt and was also over the legal alcohol limit.

But in its decision, the Court of Appeals found that there were "no circumstances to indicate that he [the officer who stopped him] reasonably suspected that the crack limited or obstructed the driver’s vision."

As a result, it didn't pass the test for Minnesota's law, which states a driver shall not operate a motor vehicle that has "a windshield cracked or discolored to an extent to limit or obstruct proper vision."

Poehler appealed after he was convicted of driving while impaired and violating a driver's license restriction (that banned him from using any drugs or alcohol before operating a vehicle), 

"This is the first case where we are asked whether every windshield crack of any extent justifies a police stop under the obstructed-vision statute," wrote Judge Kevin Ross. "Our answer is no."

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"The officer’s bare observation that Poehler’s windshield was 'cracked' is an insufficient ground for us to hold that a reasonable officer would suspect that the crack was limiting or obstructing the driver’s view."

Despite all this, the court has ruled that the stop of Poehler was valid because the officer said he also noticed that Poehler may not have been wearing a seatbelt prior to the stop.

Poehler's attorneys attempted argue the officer only mentioned this because he knew the windshield reason wouldn't stand up in court, but this contention was rejected by the Court of Appeals.

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