COMMENTARY: Paperless option now offers proof of car registration


By Marie E. Matyjaszek

When you are pulled over by a police officer, what's the first thing you do (besides curse your bad luck)? You panic and pray to God that you have your updated proof of insurance and registration in the vehicle. Given that you can access just about anything online from your cell phone or tablet, whether through an app or a website, being able to simply show the police proof from your phone would be great, right? Well, now you can.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently signed House Bill 4013 (now known as Public Act 59 of 2017) into law, allowing drivers to show their cell phones to the police, for the express purpose of providing valid proof of registration. You may not have known that in 2015, Snyder signed a similar law, allowing for electronic copies of your proof of insurance to be used in the same fashion (see Public Act 135 of 2015; MCL 257.328). With the addition of electronic registration verification, and as long as you have your smart phone in your car, there's no excuse to not have either of these documents on hand.

People may be worried about handing over their phone to the police after all, you store A LOT of personal information on your phone, some of which you may not want anyone to see, including (and for some people, especially) the police. The law limits what the police can do with your phone when you provide it for verification "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." Providing your device for the police to view the registration does not presume that you "have consented to a search of the electronic device."

The police can, however, require you to send a copy of the certificate to a certain location (i.e. e-mail) so that he or she can further verify its authenticity.

With the passage of this new law, it's one less thing for drivers to worry about. Now you can focus all of your creative efforts on excuses for why you were going 50 in a 25 mph zone.


Marie E. Matyjaszek is an attorney referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own. Her blog site is: She can be reached by e-mailing her at

Published: Fri, Aug 11, 2017


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