Can You Be Stopped for a Cracked Windshield in Florida?

Is a police officer permitted to stop a driver with a cracked windshield in Florida? It depends. A Florida driver can be stopped problems with a windshield if the windshield violates a provision listed in Florida Statute Section 316.2952 or Section 316.610.  A cracked windshield would be covered in Section 316.610.  However, a stop is only permissible under this Section if the crack poses a safety hazard.  This would make the vehicle unsafe and allows the officer to stop the driver, because he has a particularized and objective basis to believe that the driver is violating the law.  

On the other hand, if the windshield does not create a safety hazard, the officer does not have reason to stop the driver.  In

Hilton v. State, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that marijuana seized as a result of a stop pursuant to Section 316.610 was obtained illegally.  The court held that there was no evidence to establish that the crack in Hilton’s windshield rendered his vehicle unsafe.  Thus, there was no evidence to support an objectively reasonable suspicion that the vehicle was unsafe and in violation of the statute.  

Like Mr. Hilton, criminal defendants are often stopped because of traffic infractions, such as a cracked windshield, in Florida.  While some stops may be legitimate, others are not.  Therefore, it is important to have a Jacksonville Criminal Attorney review the facts surrounding the stop to determine if a motion to suppress should be filed based on an illegal stop.   

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