A Virginia state trooper played Grinch last week and stole Christmas from Jeanne Albrecht.
The 58-year-old Fairfax City grandmother was going shopping with her daughter and was driving on I-66 near Manassas when the trooper pulled her over and gave her a ticket for displaying Christmas lights in the back window of her '85 Oldsmobile. The trooper told her the lights could distract other motorists.
"People are expecting Christmas lights this time of year," Albrecht said this week. "We do get in the Christmas spirit for sure, and we put Christmas decorations all over the place. So when I saw these lights I decided to get them."
Albrecht said she ordered the muticolored string of lights by mail for $10.49.
Sgt. F.D. Jones of the Virginia State Police said he realized that people will probably think the trooper took a Scrooge-like stance in issuing the $35 ticket, but that he was just doing his job.
"We are here to attempt to give uniform enforcement of the laws and to help make the highways safe," Jones said. "We don't make the laws. We just enforce them."
According to Jones, the only lights allowed on vehicles are those approved by the superintendent of the state police or that meet the standards of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American National Standards Institute or the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In Maryland, special equipment on a vehicle must be approved by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, according to Cpl. E.E. Walker of the Maryland State Police. The District has "nothing on the books about Christmas lights" on cars, said Sgt. J.C. Gentile, a police spokesman. "She probably would not have been in violation."
Albrecht, who said this was her first traffic ticket, disagreed with the trooper who cited her that her lights could create a distraction. She said the officer, whom she identified as A.C. Goins, just may not have had the Christmas spirit.
"Maybe he was feeling bad that day. I don't know," she said. "Why couldn't he have given me a warning?
"I think anyone should be able to put these little Christmas lights on their car. It is Christmas."
Albrecht said she plans to contest the ticket in Fairfax General District Court on Jan. 22.