A question people often ask is whether or not they can hang things from their rear-view mirrors in Virginia. This question usually comes up when people want to hang air fresheners or high school graduation tassels from their mirrors, but are unsure about the legality of doing so.
In this article, we’ll go over Virginia’s laws on hanging things from your rear-view mirrors.
The Virginia Code Says “No.”
Yes, those fuzzy dice hanging from your rear-view mirror look really cool. Sadly, they’re technically illegal.
Virginia Code § 46.2-1054 states that you can’t hang anything from your rear-view mirror that may “obstruct the driver’s clear view of the highway through the windshield.” If an officer can easily see an object hanging from your mirror from a distance, they’ll likely say that it’s obstructing your view of the road. In this case, they’ll probably give you a ticket.
Challenges to this Law
Many defendants have challenged this law in court, to varying levels of success. Lawyers generally argue that the rear-view mirror law is unconstitutional for a few reasons:
- Deciding whether an object actually “obstructs” the view of the road is up to interpretation and the officer’s discretion.
- The law opens up the possibility of discrimination based on what object it is (for example, a rosary or other religious or ethnic object).
- Police can use the rear-view mirror law as an excuse to pull someone over for another offense they may not have probable cause on.
As an example of how this might play out in the real world, check out this recent case from Virginia’s highest court:
In the 2016 case, Mason v. Commonwealth, Tony Jarrett was driving with a parking pass hanging from his rear-view mirror. An officer pulled him over only because of the parking pass (he wasn’t violating any other laws.)
At the traffic stop, the police officer discovered that Jarret’s passenger, Loren Mason, was in possession of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and a large amount of cash. The officer arrested Mason, and charged him with multiple felonies.
Mason took his case all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court. He argued that the traffic stop was unconstitutional. He said that police shouldn’t be able to stop a driver just because of an object hanging from their rear-view mirror.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Commonwealth, and ordered Mason’s conviction to stand.
The Virginia Supreme Court’s decision means that the police can pull you over if something’s hanging from your rear-view mirror, whether you think it’s obstructing your view or not.
For this reason, it’s generally a good idea to avoid giving an officer the opportunity.
Consequences of a Violation
If the police pull you over because of something hanging from your rear-view mirror, at a minimum you can get a ticket. The officer can charge you for having your “view obstructed because of suspended objects.”
This ticket comes with both a $30 fine and a $51 processing fee, for a total fine of $81.
Remember, if an officer pulls you over for an object hanging from your mirror, they can also check whether registration is expired, your license is suspended, your inspection is up to date, and so on.
In general, police officers have the right to pull you over just because of the suspended object, and then may check for other violations. Depending on how the traffic stop goes, this can also lead to further charges like in the Mason v. Commonwealth case mentioned before.
Hanging things from your rear-view mirror doesn’t mean you will always or automatically get a ticket – but it is a valid reason to be pulled over. For this reason, it’s best to just totally avoid hanging things from your rear-view mirror if at all possible.