AUGUSTA — The Maine House has failed to advance a modest bill that would have promoted racial justice and civil liberties on Maine's roadways by decriminalizing minor traffic violations.
LD 1479 would have made some minor traffic violations, such as driving with expired registration, driving with items hanging from the rearview mirror, and making unnecessary noise, secondary offenses — meaning law enforcement wouldn't have the legal authority to pull a person over. The bill failed with a vote of 60-77 yesterday afternoon.
“The bill was a small but important step at curbing law enforcement powers and ensuring drivers and their passengers receive fair treatment when they are driving in Maine," said Rep. Victoria Morales (D-South Portland), the bill sponsor. "It defies commonsense that police spend limited resources pulling people over for these small traffic violations.”
The Maine House's failure to act comes as the Maine State Police are under scrutiny for the actions of a state trooper who has used minor traffic violations as an excuse to pull over Black drivers. A federal district judge found that the trooper was not a credible witness because his dashcam footage didn’t show any alleged traffic violation, as the trooper has claimed as a basis for making a traffic stop.
"As we’ve seen in Maine and throughout the country, police officers use minor traffic violations as an excuse to make unconstitutional stops,” said Michael Kebede, policy counsel at the ACLU of Maine. “We need to stop treating minor traffic violations as crimes. It is an inappropriate use of law enforcement power, and it often results in the violation of a person’s constitutional rights.”