Massachusetts Police Can’t Justify Drunk Driving Charges on License Plate Violations

The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently ruled that police cannot justify the stop of a vehicle on the basis of an obscured license plate slogan, and in the process, threw out the DUI / OUI charges the driver was arrested for.

In the case of Commonwealth v. Miller, a Massachusetts State Trooper pulled over a car because the slogan of the persons Massachusetts license plate, “The Spirit of America”, was partially covered. After pulling the car over, the trooper then arrested the operator for Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol, Third Subsequent Offense.

The Defendant in then challenged the constitutionality and justification of the state trooper pulling the car over, and ultimately succeeded in getting the charges thrown out. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed that, where there were no motor vehicle violations committed by the operator, there was no justification for the stop simply because the slogan of the license plate was covered.

The court ruled that, although Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Laws require that the numbers on a license plate must be legible and able to be identified by others, including law enforcement, the law does not require that the slogan or border of the plate also be readily identifiable.

A stop based only upon the slogan or the border of a license plate being partially concealed is not justified, and any illegal evidence or criminal conduct, even Drunk Driving Charges, resulting from such an unjustified stop must be suppressed or otherwise thrown out.

Boston DUI Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation on all Massachusetts Drunk Driving Crimes, including Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol, Third Subsequent Offense.

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