Michigan: Senate Considers Legalizing Fuzzy Dice

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

A Michigan state Senate committee voted unanimously to advance legislation that would legalize the hanging of fuzzy dice and air fresheners from rearview mirrors. State Senator Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks) introduced Senate Bill 276 to repeal the statute that allows police to pull over motorists using objects dangling from a mirror as a pretext. Existing law makes driving with a “dangling ornament” punishable by a $100 fine and up to ninety days imprisonment.

The law became controversial after the January 13, 2006 arrest of Lonnie Ray Davis outside Detroit. Westland Police Officer Pat Griffin pulled over Davis for the crime of driving with a “Tweety Bird” air-freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. Griffin testified that he had no other justification for the traffic stop. After searching Davis’s vehicle, Griffin found drugs, a gun and a bottle of Hennessy cognac. Davis appealed his conviction before a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that in December found the Michigan law unconstitutionally vague because it did not define what kind of dangling objects might “obscure” a driver’s vision.

“Many vehicles on the road today have something hanging from the rearview mirror, whether it be an air freshener, a parking pass, fuzzy dice, or a rosary,” Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr. wrote. “And many organizations, both public and private, either encourage or require their use. Because of this, many vehicles on the road may violate the obstruction law, but the statute itself provides no guidance either to motorists or police as to which ones do. It is simply up to the officer on the street to decide. We believe that the Constitution requires more of Michigan’s legislature.”

Although the court did not let Davis off the hook for cocaine possession, it withdrew its decision two weeks later. In April, the same three-judge panel issued a new decision that no longer mentioned the unconstitutional vagueness of the statute.

“We cannot accept Davis’s argument that police lacked probable cause to stop him based upon the Tweety Bird,” Martin wrote in the revised opinion. “The law’s language is unqualified: an obstruction of any size for any amount of time falls within it. Consequently, the mere sight of the dangling Tweety Bird supplied the ‘quantum of individualized suspicion’ sufficient to establish probable cause to believe that Davis was violating [the law].”

Under the amended text of SB 276, it would only be a crime to drive with obstructed vision and the reference to dangling ornaments would be deleted. The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration. A copy of the revised Sixth Circuit opinion is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

US v. Davis (US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 4/30/2009)

[courtesy thenewspaper.com]

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  • GS650G GS650G on Oct 15, 2009

    I would rather move to the 4th ring of Hell than live in Michigan. Mainly because it's warmer. But also because it's not a failed state. And MI surely is. Hell knows how to run itself better than MI. A shame too. Lots of nice, smart, good people live there but their leaders have destroyed the state, along with self centered organizations and myopic corporations. Name another state where the flagship city has 33% unemployment. As for objects from the rear view, who cares. People have GPS boxes up there already.

  • OfficerNelson OfficerNelson on Oct 17, 2009

    @GS650G "As for objects from the rear view, who cares. People have GPS boxes up there already." In California (and some other state, I forgot) these are illegal with good reason - usually when I point this out, people say "I know, but where else can I put it?" But it's still fun when people complain that they never knew about it. I ask to see the GPS manual (many people have it in their glovebox), and point out the big red box with the exclamation point on the first page that explicitly states (usually in bold font) that in California it is illegal to affix the unit to the windshield. By the way, most GPS makers sell weighted mounts that are designed to be put on the dashboard or somewhere else, which are not illegal.

  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)