People v Simmons – Outlines Temporary License Plates
In People v Simmons, the Michigan Court of Appeals outlines the downfall of having a temporary license plate on an individual’s motor vehicle here in the State of Michigan. The reason that this opinion on temporary license plates has such a big impact on individual’s is because the opinion now allows for officers to stop a motor vehicle if the license plate is not properly visible.
The individual defendant in People v Simmons had a temporary license plate on the back of his motor vehicle, but he did not have anything in the plate holder. The officer performed a traffic stop on the defendant, and as he approached the vehicle he again searched for a license plate, which he found; however, as he was three (3) or four (4) feet away from the vehicle he was still unable to read any printing on the paper plate. The officer continued his approach to the defendant’s vehicle, made contact with him, and then he proceeded to ask the general questions of: license, insurance and registration. In the end, the defendant did not have proper registration and his license was suspended. The defendant was subsequently arrested, and the vehicle was then searched, which brought about a finding of contraband in the vehicle.
The Court of Appeals explained that the officer was justified in stopping the vehicle for a violation of MCL 257.225(2) because the plate was not in a clearly visible position or in a clearly legible condition. The court went on to explain that the officer was unable to properly view the license plate while the officer was on patrol in his police cruiser, but also the officer was unable to view the temporary license plate as he approached the view and only a few feet away from it. The purpose of the statue is to properly place and have in view a temporary license plate, even those paper license plates. An important note on this case and the court of appeals opinion is that the court also identified the temporary license plate as being unreadable, which is also a requirement of the license plate statute. So in the end, it does matter where the temporary license plate is placed, but also that it can be read, meaning that the temporary license plate should be typed or used with a dark ink to ensure that it is visible.
This case is important on many levels because of the buying and selling of cars and the use of paper temporary license plates. Many individuals do not recognize the concern when using a temporary license plate; however, it is necessary to ensure that your temporary license plate is properly placed and properly visible. A minor mistake such as this can possibly lead to criminal charges depending on what is occurring inside the vehicle if and when it is stopped. This statement becomes valid if an officer stops a motor vehicle for an improperly placed or un-visible temporary license place, which has been ruled as a valid traffic infraction. Know the law, maintain your rights, and always lawyer-up.
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