Published on:

If you are driving around with equipment violations you are rolling probable cause

Recently my son and I were driving on I-90 in New York State and found ourselves pulled over. He was driving his car and doing the speed limit, so we could not figure out what the problem was. Turns out, the cop was detailed to 

enforce the window tint law and the tints were too dark. I told my son to just take the tints off the car and I would have the ticket dismissed, to which he said that he wasn’t going to do that and was just going to pay the ticket. My response was “okay, if that’s what you want to do. Just understand though, you’re rolling probable cause.”


The police cannot stop a motorist arbitrarily. They must have at a minimum reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime or violation. Observing either a moving violation or an equipment violation is all that it takes to stop a vehicle. Moreover, so long as the police have valid reasonable suspicion, they can use that as a pretext to stop you even if they would not have otherwise stopped you but have a “hunch” that you are suspicious butt cannot articulate suspicion in order to stop you.

Most equipment violations are very minor, nuisance tickets not even worth the time of day. However, that is not the problem. So long as a cop has you legally stopped he has the right to look into your car and see what is in plain view. If he sees something that looks or even smells suspicious then he can search your car without your consent; even if he does not see something suspicious he can ask you for consent to search and most people, to intimidated to just say “no” say “yes.” The police can run your license and registration and if the vehicle comes back unregistered or your license comes back expired or suspended those would be valid charges. If you don’t have your proof of insurance, or your insurance card is expired that would lead to an uninsured ticket, of which you would not be allowed to drive the car away and you would have to fight in court because if you were found guilty your license would be revoked.


Why make it easy for the police to stop you when it is so simple and in your best interest to keep all of your vehicle’s equipment in order and up to date? Common reasons why vehicles are stopped for equipment violations include:

  • Non-operating headlights and tail lights
  • objects hanging from the rear view mirror or otherwise obstructing the windshield
  • Expired inspection / expired registration
  • Failure to wear a seat belt (also a moving violation)
  • Unsecure or missing license plate
  • Window tints
  • No rear view mirror
  • Non-operating signals
  • License plate bulb inoperable
  • Obstructed license plate (ANY part of the license plate covered, EVEN IF the alpha-numerical are totally readable and legible)

Additionally, whenever you are legally stopped by the police and not yet under arrest, any statements made can be used against you in court. This is why an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Periodically check your vehicle. Make sure all the lights work. Wear you seatbelt, and make sure everyone else in the car does as well. Make sure your inspection is up to date, and your registration and insurance and proof of same is in order. Never hang anything from the rear view mirror, and if you have your window’s tinted, ensure that they are within state regulation.