Reader Response: Don't change law over traffic stops

Trey Mewes, The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.
·4 min read

Apr. 26—The Free Press

A majority of area respondents say the Minnesota Legislature shouldn't change state law to limit traffic stops for licensed tabs, according to a Free Press online question.

Out of 324 total respondents, 231 voters — more than 71% — believe Minnesota shouldn't change traffic laws to limit police stops over licensed tabs. Another 93 voters supported the proposal.

House DFLers have introduced a proposal to bar traffic stops for low-level infractions such as expired tabs in the wake of the police killing of Daunte Wright. The bill would prohibit police stops for such things as outdated registration, hanging objects from a rearview mirror or a having a broken light, though police would still be able to stop drivers with more than one broken light or major windshield issues.

Proponents of the bill say the state can fine or collect fees from people out of compliance through letters or other means. They cite data that shows clear racial disparities in traffic stops throughout the state as cause to end certain kinds of traffic stops.

Critics say the measure hasn't been researched well enough and could create issues enforcing insurance and registration requirements for Minnesota drivers. They argue traffic stops are the primary deterrent for people who might think about skipping out on buying insurance or ensuring their tabs are paid each year.

It's unclear whether the bill has enough support to become law. A majority of Republicans in the House opposed the bill, though some GOP lawmakers support the measure. Last week, the Senate GOP announced then walked back plans to hold hearings on potential public safety measures. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has publicly remained ambivalent toward addressing police accountability measures this legislative session.

The Free Press online question, sent out Friday, asked, "Should Minnesota law be changed to limit or prohibit police stops over licensed tabs?"

There were two options to answer, "yes" or "no."

A majority commenters believed traffic laws should either remain in place or the state should do away with tabs. Many said traffic stops help ensure people are keeping up with insurance payments and tab fees. A few commenters said limiting or ending traffic stops for low-level infractions would likely free up police resources for other issues.

"Expired tabs may not require the same police urgency as chasing armed robbers or responding to major accidents, but how in the world could drivers be forced to have current tabs if there were no threat of being pulled over and fined?" Marshel Rossow wrote. "If police can't stop drivers for expired or missing tags, then the law should be changed to state that current tabs and plates are a recommendation, not a rule."

Jerry Groebner wrote, "Having been an insurance agent for 42 years, I have seen so many who buy mandatory insurance only to get their license plate or tab renewals. Some keep the insurance for a month, some for two to six months. If they have an accident during this time period, at least there is some insurance in place to pay for some of the other person's losses if they were at fault and there is a good chance that they would be. The other part of this would be that there would be no incentive to buy renewal tabs except every few years when you are required to get new plates. That would be a real loss of income for the highway funding."

Mavis Richardson wrote, "It is a law. If you say police should not ticket for expired tabs, then have the legislature eliminate the law."

Ron Leech wrote, "There is a very simple solution to prevent traffic stops from going bad. If stopped for whatever reason, follow the directives of the officer and keep your mouth shut. If one acts like a gentleman, he will be treated like one."

"Stopping drivers in traffic and pulling them over for minor offenses like nonfunctional tail lights or missing or expired license tabs is a waste of police time and a danger to the police, the driver pulled over, and to other drivers," Paul Brandon wrote. "Since the invention of photography, it is quite simple to identify the car and the infraction, and mail a bill for the fine to the driver. This would free the police for more important functions such as responding to major crimes and emergencies."

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