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Can an officer stop a vehicle because of a dim taillight?

The defendant argued that the court erred because Officer's stop of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment. Officer pulled defendant over, and when he approached the vehicle, he smelled alcohol and saw that defendant's eyes were glassy and bloodshot. Officer had defendant perform several field sobriety tests and determined that defendant was intoxicated. He then arrested defendant for OWI.

The case was centered on the question of when "a vehicle has two taillights and both taillights are, in some sense, operational, can the vehicle still violate section 686 when one of those taillights is not, in some other sense, fully operational? Defendant's taillights were both operational in the sense that they were lighted when the headlamps were lighted, but one of them was not fully operational in that the light emitted was significantly dimmer than the other.

The answer was: Yes, a vehicle with an operating taillight can violate section 686, but only if

  • the taillight is not red,
  • it is not plainly visible from at least 500 feet,
  • or it is not lighted when the headlamps or auxiliary lamps are lighted.

The dash-cam video clearly showed that the passenger-side taillight on the vehicle in question was significantly dimmer than the one on the driver-side. As the district court judge noted during the suppression hearing, when one taillight is significantly brighter than the other, a dangerous condition may arise. Added to the icy, wintery conditions present on the night in question and the fact that defendant was driving in a congested area in the dark of early morning. The defendant's defective taillight created a 'dangerous' condition, by itself, sufficient to justify the stop under MCL 257.683. Because Officer observed defendant's potential violation of the Vehicle Code, there existed reasonable suspicion to stop him. Thus, there was no Fourth Amendment violation.

Before you agree to pay a ticket or plea to any traffic violation, consider meeting with an attorney to evaluate your case. There is no denying that Michigan has harsh punishments for drinking and driving; jail, probation and license suspension are all possible, not to mention skyrocketing insurance rates and possible job loss. Retaining a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney who is committed to protecting your rights as soon as you are charged is essential.

PROBATE 2: Can you remove a guardian that holds power of attorney?

Under the EPIC, a “suitable” guardian is one who is qualified and able to provide for the ward’s care, custody, and control. When a preponderance of the evidence weighs against the suitability of the ward’s current choice for guardian, the probate court must remove that person as guardian.

PROBATE 1: Probate court jurisdiction versus business court jurisdiction.

In this case involving a Living Trust, the husband, appeals as of right the probate court’s order granting partial summary disposition to their daughter. The order resolved claims relating to two family businesses, declared the wife disabled, and pursuant to the terms of the trust, removed the husband as successor trustee of the trust.

REAL ESTATE 3: Can you take your neighbor’s land by Adverse Possession?

To prevail on a claim of adverse possession, plaintiffs must show that they possessed the disputed property openly, adversely, exclusively, and continuously for at least 15 years. A party making an adverse possession claim can meet the time requirement by tacking their possessory period to that of their predecessors in interest with whom they are in privity of estate.

The Basics of a Plea Bargain

A plea bargain is an agreement made between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the accused person agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for the prosecutor dropping the charges or recommending a lower sentence to the judge or...

REAL ESTATE 2: Property dispute, intent is not required for a trespass.

In instances of trespass where injunctive relief and actual damages are not warranted, a plaintiff nevertheless is entitled to nominal damages. Because a trespass violates a landholder’s right to exclude others from the premises, the landholder could recover at least nominal damages even in the absence of proof of any other injury.

Bail: Getting Out of Jail After an Arrest

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Plaintiff, age 67 at the time of divorce, and defendant, age 59 at the time of divorce, were married for 23 years. The judgment of divorce provides for a division of property. Defendant appeals arguing that the trial court erred in determining the...

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Child Support Modification

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A divorce shouldn't thwart your estate planning goals

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What to know about will contests

You create an estate plan to make sure your heirs and beneficiaries are taken care of in the event you are no longer able to. You may also do so to minimize the bickering and infighting that may come between surviving family members who may have...

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