By on June 12, 2009

An Arizona state Senate committee voted 4-2 on Tuesday to continue, for now, the practice of allowing police to pull over and fine motorists who use certain types of license plate frames. State Senators Jay Tibshraeny (R-Chandler) and Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert) had unsuccessfully introduced legislation to gut a state law that took effect in January. “A person shall maintain each license plate so it is clearly legible and so that the name of this state at the top of the license plate is not obscured,” Arizona Code Section 28-2354 states. Although the distinctive colors and cactus designs of Arizona’s basic plates are readily identifiable to the human eye, visibility of the state name is important for the optical character recognition software used by photo enforcement companies.

Motorists run afoul of this law if even a tiny portion of the word “Arizona” is covered by a frame and are subject to being stopped and searched and a $200 ticket imposed. Tibshraeny and Verschoor had sought to eliminate the practice and give police only the power to issue warnings. The Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure and Public Debt Committee, however, insisted on collecting fine revenue.

In Texas, a similar license plate law became controversial when cities like Houston planned to raise $1.4 million in revenue with license plate citations. The Texas legislature eventually reduced the penalty to $10.

In Arizona’s lower chamber, a competing license plate reform proposal, House Bill 2010, was given preliminary approval earlier this year. The bill’s sponsor, state Representative Bill Konopnicki (R-Safford), sought to eliminate the language about partially covering up the state’s name, which he saw as the heart of the legislative problem.

“I’m not sure that there should be any fine,” Konopnicki said in February.

Konopnicki was concerned that the statute as written would be misused to create probable cause for searches that would not otherwise exist. He claimed that he had received 4000 emails in support of his legislation, but the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee could not give up on the idea of imposing a fine. It rewrote Konopnicki’s bill to make covering up any portion of the state name a secondary offense carrying a $30 fine.

Such fines could be easily added to a photo radar or red light camera ticket under a “secondary violations” clause in the photo enforcement contract for cities like Phoenix. The amended proposal would still have to clear both the full House and Senate before being sent to the governor

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20 Comments on “Arizona License Plate Law Protects Photo Ticket Revenue...”


  • avatar
    twotone

    I wonder if the AZ fine can be imposed on cars with out of state plates? If not, problem solved — register your vehicle in Nevada.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    long126mike

    An Arizona state Senate [which is 60% R, 40% D] committee voted 4-2 on Tuesday to continue, for now, the practice of allowing police to pull over and fine motorists who use certain types of license plate frames. State Senators Jay Tibshraeny (R-Chandler) and Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert) had unsuccessfully introduced legislation to gut a state law that took effect in January.

    There – juiced your orange for you.

  • avatar
    grifonik

    Hmmm… Is it illegal to put a bunch of OTHER license plates on the back of your car?

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    Can these be fought with a jury trial?

    If not I recommend Arizona citizens as a Republican state exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    AHA ! A clue. That may be helpful. Thx.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    mikeolan,

    Are you suggesting that Arizonans join a militia or that they start gunning down officers over license plate frames?

    Instead of supporting armed insurrection, I think the constitution gives the people of Arizona a better option–vote the representatives out and replace them. It is legal, bloodless, and the reason people have fought to defend the constitution.

    The second amendment is strangely quiet on the topic of license plate frames.

  • avatar
    long126mike

    If not I recommend Arizona citizens as a Republican state exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

    Oh goody – another murder threat. Lovely.

  • avatar
    Bearadise

    I had to send the state of Florida a photo of my car with my Florida plate on it to prove that a vehicle photographed running a toll booth in Ft. Lauderdale wasn’t mine. It was the right license plate number in the picture (a vanity plate) but clearly not a Florida plate. Perhaps that’s what happens when the cameras can’t read the state name.

    So the intent of this legislation seems valid, but the $200 fines and vehicle searches…come on. Maybe some entrepreneur should start selling stickers that say ARIZONA which can be applied between the state name and the plate number so the optical readers can see them. Marketing slogan: “Keep the frame, still see the name.” Remember, I get royalties.

  • avatar
    ConspicuousLurker

    The politicians are abusing these things. People will eventually get fed up.

    But back to the topic of the thread, how do these work with the plates back east? It seems like every car in those states has an individually designed plate. In my time in Indiana, I swear I saw 50 in that state alone. The numbers aren’t all in the same place, in the same type, same size, or even color, and sometimes the state isn’t even clearly displayed. To make things even more confusing, some of them don’t require front plates, so people put whatever up there. I’d like to see them OCR scan the ‘#1 [New York Yankees Emblem] FAN.’

    I’m sure they’ve worked it out. A couple hundred bucks is riding on each citation. That’s a mighty large incentive to “find our guy.”

  • avatar
    Hippo

    The problem is that the cameras themselves should be illegal.

  • avatar

    It seems a little unfair if your plate has a tiny portion of the state covered. As long as you are able to recognise the state the plate is covering then why should it matter?

    I know many people try to obscure the number plate so that they cannot be read clearly which is wrong and should be dealt with accordingly but in many issues with things like this it is just a way for the law to gain extra funds.

  • avatar
    menno

    +1 hippo

    At least I can point to ONE thing that my home state does right; Michigan’s constitution requires that for an arrest or ticket to be given, it must be given in person at the time of the alleged infraction by (what used to be considered) a peace officer.

    Sadly, now such language (peace officer) is rapidly being replaced in reality by “neo-stazi revenue generation officer”.

  • avatar
    findude

    I (cough, cough) am old enough to remember identifying a car’s state simply by the color of the license plate. It was one of my favorite activities while sitting in the back of the 1962 Caddy on long road trips after I tired of punching my sisters. Now I can’t even recognize all the plates in the state where I live because there are so many different commemorative and special interest versions.

    I don’t think cars should have license plate frames at all. Most frames are simply advertising for a dealer anyway.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Just put a bar code on license plates and be done with it. Maybe have the state tattoo one on our foreheads when we renew our driver’s license as well, so that the cameras can ID the driver as easily.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I’m not sure I see an issue. You have a license plate. Issued to the car to show the car is legal for use on the road. Of course it should be illegal to cover portions of the plate.

    It’s like the people that complain when they get a speeding ticket. Yes, no one likes them. But you are complaining about getting a ticket due to the fact that you were speeding!

    Just goes to show that it’s easier to blame than to take personal responsibility.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    long126mike:

    An Arizona state Senate [which is 60% R, 40% D] committee voted 4-2 on Tuesday to continue, for now, the practice of allowing police to pull over and fine motorists who use certain types of license plate frames. State Senators Jay Tibshraeny (R-Chandler) and Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert) had unsuccessfully introduced legislation to gut a state law that took effect in January.

    There – juiced your orange for you.

    Is the Committee made up of 60/40, or is it the entire State Senate? If it’s important to know, please clarify.

    I’m in favor of banning license plate holders entirely. I think the whole plate should be free of obstruction, including dirt and grime. There are several good reasons for this besides optical character recognition. Police officers and other law enforcement personnel and/or their dashboard cams should be able to pick them up clearly. As should Joe or Jane Citizen, in the event they need to report an accident, dangerous driver, or illegal activity.

    I guess I don’t get the reference to Republican vs. Democrat on this. I don’t think this is (or should be considered) a partisan issue.

    The GM dealerships used to put the license holders on my GM cars. They tried to do it every time, as if that was more important than doing the service correctly. One time they did it before they even serviced my vehicle! Every time, I would make them remove the holder not only for the reasons I stated above, but because I’m not in the business of giving free advertising. Yes, I often think about removing all badging from my cars, even the cars I really like a lot.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    “Are you suggesting that Arizonans join a militia or that they start gunning down officers over license plate frames?”

    I was actually talking about picking out the cameras, but militia sounds good too now that you’ve suggested it.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Mikeolan,

    Good to hear that you wanted that option, and that sounds fine to me, but remember that the “well regulated militias” are just that–well regulated.

  • avatar
    vento97

    If not I recommend Arizona citizens as a Republican state exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

    I hope you realize that you would be whacking a lot of your fellow republicans:

    An Arizona state Senate [which is 60% R, 40% D]

    a.k.a. GOP-on-GOP violence….

  • avatar
    JohnHowardOxley

    Interesting take on free advertising — I don’t mind having my car badged by the maker — it is why I bought it after all, but it has always been my habit to remove any sticker, decal, plate, or other geegaw advertising the dealer. I actually prefer the dealer use a licence plate holder to advertise — they are a lot easier to remove!

    If, on the other hand, a dealer had sufficient smarts to say to me: “I know if you wear the dealer insignia, you are giving me valuable advertising, so here’s a crisp $50 bill.” then I would have no problem with it.


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