Minnesota lawmakers propose major changes to traffic stop laws

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A proposed amendment to the House Public Safety and Police Reform Bill could significantly change Minnesota’s laws regarding traffic stops.

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she sponsored the amendment because a recent study showed Black drivers were more likely to be stopped by law enforcement for traffic violations than white drivers.

“For example, the Stanford Open Policing Project found large discrepancies in the number of traffic stops for African-Americans than the white population,” Becker-Finn said. “That study said, in St. Paul for example, Black drivers are three times more likely to be pulled over than whites.”

Under Becker-Finn’s proposal, law enforcement would not be allowed to stop a driver for expired license tabs, a burned-out headlamp or tail lamp, hanging objects from a rearview mirror or having tinted windows.

”This does not mean those drivers could not be cited for those violations, it just means it cannot be the main reason they are pulled over,” Becker-Finn said. “If someone is speeding and then it’s discovered they have expired tabs, then they could be cited for those expired tabs, and if they have two headlights, or two tail lights, that are burned out, then they also could be stopped because it becomes a public safety issue.”

Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, expressed concern about portions of the amendment, telling members of the House Judiciary Committee one of the most effective ways to determine if someone has valid auto insurance is through a traffic stop for expired license tabs.

“This is really problematic for us in, not only trying to keep the public safe but also to make sure other laws are being followed,” said Petersburg. “This is an effective way to see if someone has car insurance so if they are in an accident they can be held accountable.”

The amendment was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and is now included in the Public Safety and Police Reform Omnibus Bill which could receive a vote as early as next week.