The 2016 Electric Forest Festival is almost here and tens of thousands of concertgoers are getting ready to head out to the Forest. Law enforcement also knows this. If you don’t want to be the stopped by the police on your way to the Forest, review these 5 tips:
Tip #1 Don’t hang anything from your review mirror, i.e., an air freshener, beads, etc.
The police can stop you if you they have probable cause to believe you committed a civil infraction. It is a civil infraction in Michigan to “operate a motor vehicle with . . .[a]n object that obstructs the vision of the driver. . .” M.C.L. § 257.709(1)(c); People v. Fisher, 463 Mich. 881 (2000).
Did You Know?
This law does not apply to vehicles registered out of state or the country (Hello, Canada!). M.C.L. § 257.709(3)(d). While you may win a legal challenge to a traffic stop if you have an out of state license plate and are stopped for something hanging from your review mirror or obstructing your view, it is much less expensive to just remove any obstructions than to fund a legal challenge after-the-fact.
Tip #2 Observe all of the Posted Speed Limits
Because speeding is a civil infraction, it is one of the most common reasons for a traffic stop. So don’t speed to the Forest; otherwise, you may get an expensive ticket, points on your master driving record, an insurance hike, and an unwanted delay/encounter with the police.
Tip #3 Use Your Turn Signal to Change Lanes
Michigan law requires the operator of a motor vehicle to give a signal prior to “turning from a direct line . . .” M.C.L. § 257.648; People v. Hrlic, 277 Mich. App. 260 (2007) (MCL 257.648 requires drivers to use a turn signal when changing lanes on a highway).
Did You Know?
You can use your hands or arms to give the “signal,” even when you are in a car:
(a) For a left turn, the operator shall extend his or her left hand and arm horizontally.
(b) For a right turn, the operator shall extend his or her left hand and arm upward.
(c) To stop or decrease speed, the operator shall extend his or her left hand and arm downward.
M.C.L. § 257.648(3)(a)-(c).
Tip #4 Make Sure all the Equipment on your Car is Working Properly
The police can stop you if your car has “defective equipment.” There are a number of laws that require various equipment to be working properly and in good repair, including but not limited to:
(1) license plate lights (M.C.L. § 257.686(2));
(2) head lights (M.C.L. § 257.684)
(3) brake lights (M.C.L. § 257.697b); and,
(4) cracked windshields (M.C.L. § 257.709);
So, take a few minutes and make sure that all the equipment is working properly on your car. Most auto parts stores or oil change shops will help you fix these little problems, sometimes free of charge.
Did You Know?
Michigan law requires you to use your headlights “. . .a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead. . .” M.C.L. § 257.684.
Tip #5 You Do Not Have to Answer any Incriminating Questions or Take any Field Sobriety Tests When You Are Stopped by the Police
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides citizens the right to remain silent and the right against self incrimination. This protection extends to traffic stops and other encounters with the police.
If you are stopped by the police, you should be polite, be respectful, properly identify yourself, and even step out of the vehicle, upon request. But you should also know that you do not have to answer any other questions, particularly questions designed to elicit an incriminating response, e.g., “have you been drinking/smoking”, “do you have anything illegal in your car,” “do you have anything in your car I should know about?” Nor do you have take take any field sobriety tests, even if the officer makes it seem like there’s not much of a choice whether to do so or not. Remember, you may be providing him/her with incriminating evidence by doing so, and you have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself and remain silent. The best way to respond to these type of questions/demands is to tell the officer “I do not want to answer any questions (or take any field sobriety tests) without my attorney.” While the police may have already gathered enough evidence to justify a warrantless arrest, at least you are not providing them with a confession or other evidence to support your arrest.
Hope these tips help you have a safe and uneventful trip to the Festival!
If you have questions along the way, Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law will be on-call 24/7 during the festival and we offer free consultations @ (616) 458-5500 or (231) 924-8700.
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