SHERIFF'S CORNER: Debunking 20 legal and traffic myths

Growing up, we were all told things that were illegal to do by our parents. When I entered law enforcement many years ago, I started to look at some of these urban myths to see if they are really true. Here are some of the most common myths that we all probably remember well.

1) I was in the car the other day with my hippie uncle, who had this weird knob on the steering wheel. I asked him what it was for. He said, "Check this out. This is a 'suicide' ball that I can turn the wheel with one hand, so I never have to take my hand off my smoke." He then stated, "Don't tell your aunt, because these are illegal unless you are disabled."

FALSE. There is nothing in the Michigan Vehicle Code or the law that prohibits the use of a "suicide" or "Brodie" knob. It can be helpful for those with disabilities, but not limited to only those individuals.

2) As a passenger the other night, I dropped my large fries on the floor. I went ahead and turned on the dome light when my friend, who was driving, said, "You can't do that, there might be a cop around."

FALSE. There is no law that says you cannot drive with your dome, or interior, light on when the vehicle is in motion. It is not advisable due to the decreased visibility that it produces when driving at night.

3) After leaving the beach the other day, I went to locate my shoes only to find that they were missing from where I left them. I needed to get home, so I decided to drive barefoot even though I know this is not legal.

FALSE. Whether you are barefoot, have no shoes, or are driving with flip-flops, there is no law on the books that prohibits this.

4) You know, there is never a cop around when you need one. This guy just did a U-turn downtown in front of me. I know I was driving too fast, but that doesn't excuse him from doing a U-turn, which we all know is illegal.

FALSE. You can legally make a U-turn, provided there is not a local ordinance or sign that prohibits it.

5) I've been drinking all day and should not be driving my car, I can; however, drive my lawnmower to go get a pack of smokes at the corner store.

FALSE. You cannot operate a riding lawn mower on the road, or private property open to the public, if you are intoxicated.

6) On my 4-wheeler, there is a plastic covered sticker from the manufacturer that states, "No one under 16 can operate this." I guess my 14-year-old will have to wait a few years before they can ride it.

FALSE. This is a consumer safety rating, not the law. For example, a 12- to 15-year-old would be legal to operate said ORV, provided they are following the state age and training requirements for ORV usage.

7) I heard that there is a new law that says it OK to have window tint on any window.

FALSE. Total vehicle window tinting is not legal. The use of tinting is limited to the rear side windows, the rear window if the vehicle has outside mirrors on both sides, and the top four inches of the front-side windows. The exception to this would be if the driver has a letter from his/her physician, and is in possession of the letter while in operation.

8) I just purchased a new car from a private individual. Everyone knows you have 15 days that you can drive it before you have to get a plate. So, after buying it, I drove it to my sisters in Mackinaw City, then went to get groceries in Clare, before going home to Brethren.

FALSE. You cannot drive a new vehicle for any reason other than from the place of purchase to your residence, without a plate. You have three days to drive it to your residence from the place of purchase, traveling the most direct route, without a plate. However, the vehicle must be insured, and you need to have the signed title with you. You have 15 days from the date of sale to put the vehicle in your name at the Secretary of State without receiving a late fee.

9) Every time I make the bed, there is this ugly tag that sticks out from underneath the mattress. I got tired of looking at it, so I ripped it off. After I did this, I read the tag which stated: "Do not remove, under penalty of law." Was it OK for me to do this, or am I going to jail?

TRUE. This is more of a funny. It is legal to remove the tag from your mattress. It is; however, illegal for a retailer or manufacturer to remove the tag. This is because in the good ole days, they stuffed mattresses with unappealing materials and did not want consumers to know.

10) I was at the local village bar the other night with my two younger children. When the clock turned to 9 p.m., the old guy at the end of the bar said, "Hey, your kids need to leave, they can't be here after 9 p.m."

FALSE. It is legal for a minor to be in a bar after 9 p.m., provided they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, per state law. A local municipality could adopt an ordinance to restrict this.

11) Before I went out target shooting the other day, I asked my buddy if I could borrow his new Colt .38 revolver that I really wanted to shoot. He said, "No, dude, I can't do that since it's only registered to me."

TRUE. It is illegal to loan a pistol to someone, unless you are present with the firearm at all times or the person it is being loaned to has a concealed pistol license.

12) I finally met the woman of my dreams after only five other attempts. Let's hope this one pans out, since you can only get married six times in Michigan.

FALSE. It is perfectly legal to get married as many times as you want in Michigan, provided the former marriage was legally divorced, deceased or annulled.

13) Man, I just got my third ticket for speeding this year. I think the cops are picking on me. If it ain't that, it's gotta be those end-of-the-month ticket quotas. This guy must have had to write a quick ticket.

FALSE. As it may be a funny social media comment, it is illegal in Michigan for police to have "quotas" for issuing traffic tickets.

14) I was thinking of getting a pole barn built next to my cabin that I stay in on the weekends. So, I ripped off this handwritten number off of a paper ad posted on the bulletin board at the local grocery store. I contacted the guy, and asked him if he could come out an give me an estimate. I then asked him if he was licensed and insured. The guy said, "No, sir ... I don't need it. I just do these on the side." Is this true?

FALSE: It is not legal to be a residential builder without a proper state license, however, a commercial builder does not need a license.

15) When I was at the auto parts store the other day, I saw this guy carrying a pistol in a holster walking down the aisle. It kinda reminded me of John Wayne in some dusty Western town. I think I remember the local barber telling me that you don't need a special license to carry a six-shooter out in the open.

TRUE. It is legal to "open carry" any firearm, as long it is registered to you or you are the owner of the firearm. This would not apply to someone convicted of a felony, or that has some type of court order prohibiting it. There are some public places that you cannot (without a CPL) "open carry" at, such as a bank, church, court, theater, sports arena, daycare center, hospital, a place with a liquor license or in a motor vehicle. I would remind you to use caution or common sense with this, even though it is legal.

16) "Sir, the reason why I pulled you over is because your plate seems to have expired two weeks ago, on March 9. Today is the 24th." "Officer, I know my rights and that is not correct. I have until the end of the month to renew my plate."

FALSE. Your plate on your vehicle expires on your birthday, NOT on the last day of your birth month. I have pulled people over that think their plate expires on the last day of their birth month, which not only is incorrect, but could result in late fees at the Secretary of State.

17) My buddy and I got into a fight last night, and the police were called. It's OK though, because he told the officer that he didn't want to press charges.

FALSE. It is a common misconception that the other party in an altercation needs to press charges for any legal action to take place. The truth is that the state can press charges on behalf of the other party depending on the severity and nature of the incident or it involved a weapon or was pursuant to a domestic relationship.

18) "Why did you pull me over, officer? I was just going with the flow of the traffic."

FALSE. Many people commonly think that they are not going to get a ticket if they are following behind other cars that are speeding. The law does not allow for going over the posted speed in any circumstance, be it speeding or going "with the flow."

19) I don't have to use my turn signal if I am in a turn-only lane.

FALSE. Turn signals need to be used to whenever a vehicle is changing from its direct route, be it turning or changing lanes. The Michigan Vehicle Code states, "The driver of a vehicle or bicycle upon a highway, before stopping or turning from a direct lane, shall first see that the stopping or turning can be made in safety and shall give a signal as required in this section."

20) When waiting to turn left at a blinking red light, like at South Junction by Shell, I need to pull out into the intersection a little bit and wait for traffic to clear so I can complete my turn.

FALSE. At intersections where there is a blinking red light and a crosswalk you cannot impede the crosswalk while waiting to turn; therefore, you must wait for traffic to be clear before making forward motion into the intersection to complete your turn.

This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law.

If you have any questions on any specific topic, you can always email me your questions to

As always, it is a honor serving and working for all of you who live, visit and work in Lake County. Working together, we can make a difference.