In the State of Michigan, every motor vehicle, recreational vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, and pole trailer, when driven or moved on a street or highway, is subject to annual registration at the Secretary of State office. The cost of registration can vary from less than $100.00 to several hundred dollars, depending on the year and value of your vehicle. However, the following vehicles are NOT subject to registration:
- A vehicle that is driven or moved on a street or highway only for the purpose of crossing that street or highway from 1 property to another. MCL 257.216(b).
- An implement of husbandry. MCL 257.216(c).
- A trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer that weighs less than 2,500 pounds. MCL 257.216(g).
- A vehicle driven or moved on a street or highway, by the most direct route, only for the purpose of securing a scale weight receipt from a weighmaster or obtaining a vehicle inspection by a law enforcement agency before titling or registration of that vehicle. MCL 257.216(h).
- A moped. MCL 257.216(k).
- For 3 days immediately following the date of a properly assigned title or signed lease agreement from any person other than a dealer, a registration is not required for a vehicle driven or moved on a street or highway for the sole purpose of transporting the vehicle by the most direct route from the place of purchase or lease to a place of storage if the driver has in his or her possession the assigned title showing the date of sale or a lease agreement showing the date of the lease. MCL 257.216(l).
- A pickup camper. MCL 257.216(m).
- A new motor vehicle driven or moved on a street or highway only for the purpose of moving the vehicle from an accident site to a storage location if the vehicle was being transported on a railroad car or semitrailer that was involved in a disabling accident. MCL 257.216(n).
- A boat lift used for transporting vessels between a marina or a body of water and a place of inland storage. MCL 257.216(o).
Vehicle registrations must be renewed annually by filling out an application and paying the required fees. Registrations that are issued by the Secretary of State expire on the owner’s birthday, unless another expiration date is listed by law (e.g. certain commercial vehicles expire on February 1st).
Any Michigan resident who violates the requirements of the registration act is subject to civil and criminal penalties:
OPERATING AN UNREGISTERED VEHICLE (MCL 257.215)
- It is against the law for any person to drive or move or for an owner knowingly to permit to be driven or moved upon any highway any vehicle of a type required to be registered which is not registered or for which the appropriate fee has not been paid.
- The penalty for violating this statute is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine up to $100.00, or up to 90 days in jail, or both.
IMPROPER REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE (MCL 257.256)
- A person shall not lend to another person, or knowingly permit the use of any registration certificate issued to him or her if the person receiving or using the registration certificate would not be entitled to the use thereof. A person shall not carry any registration certificate not issued for the vehicle or not otherwise lawfully used under the registration act. MCL 257.256(1).
- A person who violates this statute with a non-commercial vehicle is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $100.00 or up to 90 days in jail, or both. MCL 257.256(2).
- A person who violates this statute with a commercial vehicle is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500.00 or up to 90 days in jail, or both. MCL 257.256(3).
OPERATING A VEHICLE WITH AN EXPIRED REGISTRATION (MCL 257.255)
- A person shall not operate, nor shall an owner knowingly permit to be operated, upon any highway, a vehicle required to be registered under this act unless, except as otherwise provided in this subsection, no later than 30 days after the vehicle is registered or the vehicle’s registration is renewed, a valid registration plate issued for the vehicle by the department for the current registration year is attached to and displayed on the vehicle as required by law. A printed or electronic copy of a valid registration or verification of a valid registration through L.E.I.N. (Law Enforcement Information Network) is proof that the vehicle is registered or that the vehicle’s registration has been renewed.
- The penalty for violating this statute with a non-commercial vehicle is a civil infraction punishable by a fine.
- The penalty for violating this statute with a commercial vehicle is a misdemeanor conviction punishable y a fine up to $500.00, or up to 90 days in jail, or both.
- A person who operates a vehicle licensed under the international registration plan and does not have a valid registration due to nonpayment of the apportioned fee is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or by a fine of not more than $100.00, or both. In addition, a police officer may impound the vehicle until a valid registration is obtained. If the vehicle is impounded, the towing and storage costs of the vehicle, and the care or preservation of the load in the vehicle are the owner’s responsibility. Vehicles impounded are subject to a lien in the amount of the apportioned fee and any fine and costs incurred, subject to a valid lien of prior record. If the apportioned fee, fine, and costs are not paid within 90 days after impoundment, then following a hearing before the judge or magistrate who imposed the fine and costs, the judge or magistrate shall certify the unpaid judgment to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the violation occurred. The prosecuting attorney shall enforce the lien by foreclosure sale in accordance with the procedure authorized by law for chattel mortgage foreclosures.
FAIL TO DISPLAY A PROPER REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE (MCL 257.223)
- “A registration certificate shall at all times be carried in the vehicle to which it refers or shall be carried by or electronically accessible to the person driving or in control of the vehicle, who shall display a paper or electronic copy of the registration certificate upon demand of a police officer.” MCL 257.223(1).
- “If a person displays an electronic copy of his or her registration certificate using an electronic device, the police officer shall only view the electronic copy of the registration certificate and shall not manipulate the electronic device to view any other information on the electronic device. A person who displays an electronic copy of his or her registration certificate using an electronic device as provided in this subsection shall not be presumed to have consented to a search of the electronic device. A police officer may require the person to electronically forward the electronic copy of the registration certificate to a specified location provided by the police officer. The police officer may then view the electronic copy of the registration certificate in a setting in which it is safe for the officer to verify that the information contained in the electronic copy of the registration certificate is valid and accurate. This state, a law enforcement agency, or an employee of this state or a law enforcement agency is not liable for damage to or loss of an electronic device that occurs as a result of a police officer’s viewing an electronic copy of a registration certificate in the manner provided in this section, regardless of whether the police officer or the owner or operator of the vehicle was in possession of the electronic device at the time the damage or loss occurred.” MCL 257.223(2).
- A digital photograph of a valid registration certificate will satisfy the requirements under this statute. MCL 257.223(3).
- The penalty for violating this law is a civil infraction punishable by a fine. MCL 257.223(4). However, if a person has received a civil infraction citation for fail to display a proper registration, the court shall waive a civil fine, costs, and assessments upon receipt of certification by a law enforcement agency that the person produced a valid registration certificate before the appearance date on the citation.” MCL 257.907(14). Unless there is a specific date on the ticket, the appearance date is usually 10 days from the date of citation.
A person accused of a civil infraction is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. Since registration certificate violations are considered non-moving violations, they carry no points or license sanctions. Before simply electing to pay the ticket at the district court office, you should check to see if the civil infraction is waivable if you show law enforcement that you had a valid registration the entire time.
However, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will be required to appear in court before a judge. If you are found guilty by a judge or jury, you will have a criminal conviction on your record punishable by a fine, probation or even jail. In this situation, you need to have a traffic lawyer in your corner that will protect your rights. Even if the evidence against you is strong, a lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor a reduction to a civil infraction or even a dismissal if the violation was corrected.
If you or a loved one is accused of registration violations or any traffic offense and need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.