Recently, the Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld a District Court Judge’s decision suppressing evidence from a civil motor vehicle stop.  In Commonwealth v. Michael Bernard, a State Trooper stopped the defendant’s car because the car had a tinted plastic cover over the rear license plate.  The Trooper cited MGL ch. 90 § 6, which prohibits obstruction of the license plate numbers.  There was no other reason for the stop.

MGL ch. 90, § 6 makes it unlawful to obstruct the number on the license plate.  In Bernard, the Trooper testified the rear license plate was covered by a piece of tinted plastic.  However, the Judge found the tinted plastic did not affect the legibility of the numbers on the license plate.  Because there was no other reason for the stop, the Judge concluded the stop was unlawful and suppressed all evidence seized from the unlawful stop.


In Massachusetts, a police officer may stop a car if the officer has probable cause or if they have reasonable suspicion to believe a crime has been committed, is being committed of is about to be committed.  With regard to civil motor vehicle infractions, Massachusetts law follows an ‘authoritarian approach.’  This means as long as the officer is doing no more that they are legally permitted and objectively authorized to do, the stop will be lawful.  As is true in all cases, the facts in support of the stop are crucial.

Top Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorneys will tell you car stops stemming from civil motor vehicle infractions are difficult to overcome when filing a motion to suppress evidence.  Boston, MA Suppression Attorney Jeff Miller agrees moving to suppress evidence based on a civil motor vehicle stop is challenging.  However, they are not impossible to overcome.  Challenging a motor vehicle stop based on a civil motor vehicle infraction requires immediate investigation into the facts surrounding the stop.  A skilled Massachusetts Suppression Lawyer will visit the scene, look for impairments in road signage, road conditions and other crucial facts surrounding the stop.

The Law Office of Jeffrey Miller has represented clients in a variety of charges stemming from civil motor vehicle stops.  CLICK HERE to read about cases where Boston, MA Drug Defense Attorney Jeff Miller has successfully suppressed narcotics after his clients’ car was stopped for a civil infraction.

If you have a criminal charge resulting from a civil motor vehicle stop, contact Massachusetts Suppression Lawyer Jeff Miller at 617-482-5799 to schedule an appointment.