Michigan v. Dunbar (Opinion on Application)Annotate this Case
This case arose out of a traffic stop of defendant Charles Dunbar made after police officers observed that his vehicle’s registration plate was partially obstructed by a bumper-mounted towing ball, a civil infraction under MCL 257.225(2) and (7). During the stop, the officers smelled burnt marijuana within the vehicle, leading to a search of the vehicle during which they discovered contraband, including marijuana, cocaine, and a handgun. Defendant subsequently moved to suppress that contraband as the fruit of an illegal seizure because, according to defendant, the officers lacked a lawful basis on which to stop his vehicle. The trial court denied defendant’s motion, concluding that his obstructed plate violated MCL 257.225(2) and therefore provided a lawful basis on which to stop his vehicle. The Court of Appeals, however, concluded that MCL 257.225(2) did not prohibit the obstruction of a registration plate by a towing ball and reversed. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals and reversed its judgment.