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Obscured Tag - Traffic Stops Leading to Criminal Cases

In the drug defense subset of criminal defense an amazing number of cases begin at a traffic stop. One example is issues with the license plate or tag, whether it is the infamous tag light, expired tag or an obscured tag. These stops are difficult to defend without a video showing the cops to be incorrect (or worse).

The issue of an obscured tag actually reached the Florida Supreme Court. While the legal issue was the obstruction of the tag, the real issue for the Defendant in that case was not the citation for faulty equipment or obscuring a tag; it was instead the several drug and criminal charges that resulted.

In that case, the tag light on the vehicle, along with its attached wires, was hanging down in front of the license plate obstructing the officers' view of the plate and rendering at least one letter on it unreadable. The tag became readable, only momentarily, when the vehicle turned and caused the wires to shift. However, after the turn, when the wires shifted back, the view of the tag was obstructed again. A seizure of evidence during the course of the traffic stop resulted in criminal charges.

The Supreme Court cleared up the issue in favor of allowing more traffic stops by ruling that the statute does not suggest that matter external to the license plate may constitute a permissible obstruction. Therefore, that section of the traffic law does not distinguish between obscuring matter that is on the tag or external to the license plate and the stop was held to be valid. This holding possibly exposes all Floridians to a stop for almost anything obscuring a tag.

The law on traffic stops matters greatly. There are no such things as random stops. In order to legally stop a driver, the officer must have an objective reason such as a violation of the traffic or criminal law. If your case began with a seemingly simple traffic stop and then escalated into a drug case or other criminal case, then the stop itself must be analyzed. Please click, call or fill out the form to see how we can help you to get the best results possible in your case.

English v. State (2016)

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Attorney Christian A. Straile, LLC
352.371.9141 Gainesville
352.694.4529 ocala