UPDATED: What Is An Obstructed License Plate?

The Michigan Court of Appeals, on September 9, 2014, issued an opinion in People v Dunbar explaining that individual trucks (or motor vehicles) that had factory installed trailer-ball hitches were not in violation of MCL 257.225(2) (i.e. in violation of an obstructed license plate). This means that when the vehicle’s registration is obstructed (or cannot be viewed by the officer) because of the trailer-ball hitch, the officer cannot write an individual a traffic citation for obstructed license plate or registration. HOWEVER, on March 29, 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, reversed the Court of Appeals decision in People v Dunbar and explained that the license plate and the area around the plate much be configured in a way that does not wholly or partially cover the license plate.

If found responsible for an obstructed license plate (per MCL 257.225(2)), the individual will face a non-abstractable civil infraction, which attaches a fine and zero points on the driving record. Therefore, the outcome of an obstructed license plate or registration is not very severe; however, one must always remember that traffic violations can and will lead to criminal charges. The traffic infraction or violation provides officer’s a reason to stop a particular vehicle.

Moreover, we must remember that if there is no violation (or probable cause of criminal activity) an individual officer is not allowed to pull a vehicle over. However, when returning to the issue in People v Dunbar, MSC’s opinion allows for a trailer-ball hitch to be considered obstructing a license plate, and thus the officer (or an officer for that matter) can make a valid traffic stop because it is a sufficient civil infraction or violation. Furthermore, as in Dunbar’s case, since the traffic stop was valid, the Officer was able to then continue with his or her investigation upon the smell of burn marijuana. The main issue here and legal question addressed by the court is based upon, as noted above, the fact of whether the initial traffic stop was valid. If the traffic stop was not valid then there would be an argument that the remaining facts and evidence discovered after the stop could be suppressed or withheld from prosecutorial use.

Remember, traffic violations can bring about criminal charges. This is true because the traffic violation, as explained above, allows the officer to stop you, collect more facts about what is occurring in the vehicle, and perhaps arrest or cite you for something more than the simple violation he originally pulled you over for.

It is always important and imperative to understand and know the law. It can assist you during times where you are confronted with police officers and law enforcement personnel, such as for an obstructed license plate or other civil infraction or criminal misdemeanor or felony. Whenever you are facing traffic or criminal charges, contact counsel, such as Josh Jones, to assist and protect your rights.

DO NOT RELY ON THESE LEGAL OPINIONS AND OBSERVATIONS WHEN REPRESENTING YOURSELF IN COURT. THESE ARTICLES ARE NOT MEANT TO COMPENSATE OR EFFECUATE LEGAL REPRESENTATION. YOU SHOULD AND MUST CONTACT AN ATTORNEY AND DISCUSS WITH HIM OR HER THE CONSEQUENCES OF ANY AND ALL IDEAS, STATEMENTS, OPINIONS, EXPRESSIONS OR OTHERWISE STATED ON THIS SITE. 

About Josh Jones

Josh Jones is an experienced and professional Michigan Criminal Defense attorney presenting Metro Detroit, Genesee County, Livingston County, Lapeer County, and others throughout the State of Michigan. He is available 7-days a week and handles all felonies, misdemeanors, probation violations, traffic tickets, and drivers license restoration. Josh is only a phone call away and is here to help when you are involved with the criminal justice system.