Sometimes proposed laws from the state legislature have a way of stirring up concern among certain groups. This is the story of HB 5058 in Virginia.
According to the National Police Association, this bill and another similar bill would greatly limit the authority and abilities of law enforcement officers in traffic stops within the state.
HB 5058 essentially would prevent officers from stopping vehicles with certain issues, including lack of brake lights, no license plate light, loud exhaust, defective or unsafe equipment, objects suspended in a vehicle, such as from the rearview mirror, and dark window tinting. If an officer does pull someone over for one of these offenses, any search conducted would become illegal.
The aim of the bill was to stop discriminatory targeting in the enforcement of drug laws, which often come from traffic stops and searches. However, law enforcement agencies have concerns that this bill does not consider the negative impact this would have on public safety by letting drivers on the road with unsafe vehicle conditions.
WVVA explains law enforcement officers were not the only ones concerned about HB 5058. After passing both the House and Senate, the governor did not sign off on the bill. He felt the same as law enforcement that it took too much power away from officers to keep roads safe.
In addition, the bill language is a bit confusing. Many feel that officers would be unclear on the guidelines and unable to make lawful stops that hold citizens accountable for driving a dangerous vehicle. For example, the bill includes language that increases the paperwork requirements for traffic stops, such as a headlight being out, which in the past would just result in a verbal warning.