United States v. Freeman, No. 19-3153 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Jackson was driving with Freeman as a passenger, Chicago Police Officer Petrus, on patrol with other officers, observed an object hanging from Jackson’s rearview mirror that appeared to be an air freshener. Petrus ran Jackson's license plate through a database, then pulled Jackson over for violating a city ordinance regarding the obstruction of the driver’s clear view. During the traffic stop, the officers discovered a loaded rifle beside the front passenger’s seat and two loaded handguns underneath the driver’s seat. The men were charged as felons in possession of firearms, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). At a suppression hearing, Petrus testified that she believed the law to be that a driver “cannot have anything obstructing the driver’s view” and that the air freshener obstructed the driver’s view. She explained that her “verbiage was off” when she first spoke to Jackson and said that “can’t have anything hanging from there [the rearview mirror]” and that she was “trying to gain control of the situation.” The court concluded that “this type of air freshener is enough justification to pull the car over,” finding Petrus “very credible.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. All that is required for a traffic stop is reasonable suspicion; the officer had an articulable and objective basis for suspecting that the air freshener obstructed Jackson’s clear view in violation of the city municipal code, so the stop was lawful.