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North Dakota Supreme Court Upholds Stopping Visitors in New Cars
A North Dakota Supreme Court ruling authorizes police to stop anyone displaying a temporary vehicle registration from another state.

Maring, Sandstrom, Crothers
Out-of-state motorists face being stopped in the state of North Dakota when driving a vehicle with a temporary registration tag, even if the registration is entirely valid. The North Dakota Supreme Court came to this conclusion Thursday in a ruling that found that Grand Forks police officers had properly stopped and searched Clinton Mitchell on October 1, 2006.

On that date, the officers pulled over Mitchell because his vehicle displayed a Montana temporary registration certificate in the rear window. The documentation was valid and came in the form a white sheet of paper with a "10-10-2006" expiration date written in bold, two-inch high letters readily visible from outside the vehicle. The certificate differed from the smaller temporary notice used in North Dakota.

During the traffic stop, the officers proceeded to question Mitchell leading to his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). A 4-1 court ruled that the initial stop was valid because the officer claimed he was unfamiliar with the temporary registration form used in the nearby state.

"We hold that this 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper in the rear window of Mitchell's vehicle, which was without license plates, provided reasonable and articulable suspicion that Mitchell was not complying with motor vehicle registration laws," Justice Mary Muehlen Maring wrote for the court. Only Justice Daniel J Crothers dissented.

"As a result, the majority allows police to stop many out-of-state travelers for no reason other than their vehicle registrations appear different," Justice Daniel J Crothers wrote. "I am concerned that this is a dangerous precedent to set."

In concurring with the majority, Justice Dale V Sandstrom added that no motorist could ever drive through North Dakota with a temporary registration card issued in another state.

"The law does not establish that the appellant was entitled to operate his vehicle in North Dakota with a valid Montana temporary registration certificate," Sandstrom wrote.

A full copy of the ruling is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Grand Forks v Mitchell (Supreme Court of North Dakota, 1/17/2008)

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