Politician says Illinois 'air-freshener law' results in racial profiling, seeks to end policy

Daunte Wright killed by Minnesota police officer after pulled over for hanging air freshener, having expired registration in 2021

Samantha Chatman Image
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Politicians seek to end Illinois 'air-freshener law'
Alexi Giannoulias and La Shawn Ford are seeking to change an Illinois "rearview mirror" law. Some say it results in racial profiling.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It may come as a surprise to some drivers that having something like an air freshener dangling from your car's mirror could get you pulled over by police.

Jennifer Lasenby said she learned this the hard way.

"He said it was too much of a distraction. I'm like, well, I can actually see out the mirror. This is just an air freshener," Lasenby said.

And, it's not just air fresheners. Dangling masks, rosaries, which many people use to bless their car, and even disabled parking placards, are illegal. Anything dangling from your rearview mirror while driving can get you pulled over by police.

The decades-old law was meant to prevent drivers from having an obstructed view. But, Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and State Rep. La Shawn Ford are behind a bill to change the law.

Ford, the bill's sponsor, believes that in some cases, the so-called air-freshener law has resulted in racial profiling.

"They're pulling them over, not because they're concerned the dangling air freshener is going to cause an accident. They're pulling them over because they believe they're going to find guns or drugs in their car," Ford said.

Giannoulias also weighed in.

"My heart breaks for people who have to deal with this on a daily basis," he said. "It's hurtful. It's offensive. It's dangerous. It can be very scary."

In 2021, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed in Minnesota by a police officer who mistook her gun for a Taser. He was pulled over for hanging an air freshener from his rearview mirror and having an expired registration.

SEE ALSO | Former Minnesota officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright released from prison

Wright's mom, Katie, reacted to the proposed bill.

"I definitely applaud Illinois lawmakers for pushing to change the laws in regard to driving with air fresheners," she said. "The pain that I had to go through, I don't want any other mother to have to feel that pain."

Ford and Giannoulias said this bill would protect both drivers and police.

"We believe that taking this away from the police responsibility is the right thing to do. It allows police to focus on violent crimes," Ford said.

"Most other states have gone away with it, and it's time to do the same in Illinois," Giannoulias added.

Neither CPD nor ISP would comment on this pending legislation.

The bill has passed through the Illinois House. The Illinois Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill next week.