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My guess is, it gives police an opportunity to stop vehicles without probable cause. "Your license plate holder is illegal, now I'm going to search your car."
Jeep has BBNP plates anyway.
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/02/15/15license.html[/url]"]Many license plate frames illegalCourt ruling gives police power to stop cars with partially obscured platesBy Chuck LindellAMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFFWednesday, February 14, 2007Texans who unintentionally cover even a small portion of their car's license plate can be stopped by police, ticketed and perhaps arrested for the offense, the state's highest criminal court ruled Wednesday. The 8-1 decision left three Court of Criminal Appeals judges holding their noses — proclaiming the statute "uncommonly bad," but acknowledging that the letter of the law prohibits drivers from encasing their license plate in a frame that obscures the state name, state nickname or even portions of the artwork. Unfortunately, the law as written unintentionally endangers civil liberties, Judge Cathy Cochran wrote in an opinion that, while siding with the majority, raises concerns about the ruling's impact. "It is a 'gotcha' law because it allows the police to arbitrarily stop, ticket, arrest and search any person who is driving a car whose license plate frame covers up any portion of that plate's design," Cochran wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Tom Price and Cheryl Johnson. "Look around you — the vast majority of drivers on Texas roads and highways can be stopped and arrested at any given moment." Still, Cochran wrote, under a law revised in 2003, "it is a crime . . . if that frame obscures even the tiniest bit of the doo-dad design details of the standard-issue Texas license plate." Violating the standard a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $200. But, Cochran noted, the offense can also result in arrest, a trip to jail and a search by police. The case began with a November 2003 traffic stop by a Fredericksburg police officer. Craig Hill Johnson was pulled over because his dealer-installed license plate frame partially obscured the word "Texas," hid the words "Lone Star State" and obscured a depiction of a space shuttle in a nighttime sky. Johnson was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated. At trial, he claimed the license plate frame did not violate the law and moved to suppress evidence from the traffic stop. The judge agreed, and prosecutors appealed — winning the next round when the 4th Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge's ruling. The issue before the Court of Criminal Appeals focused on the Texas Transportation Code, which states: "A person commits an offense if the person attaches to or displays on a motor vehicle a number plate or registration insignia that . . . has a coating, covering or protective material that . . . alters or obscures the letters or numbers on the plate, the color of the plate, or another original design feature of the plate." The majority opinion, written by Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, said plain reading of the law invalidated Johnson's claims. Even assuming that the state name and nickname do not constitute "letters on the plate" as stated in the law, the words and designs are part of the original design features of the plate, "the obscuring of which is prohibited," Keller wrote. The majority also engaged in a bit of speculation about lawmakers' intent in crafting the code. "The Legislature might have wished to require the entire design of a license plate to be displayed to help facilitate the quick detection of counterfeits," the opinion states. The ruling alarmed Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin. "It's terrible. Basically, the Court of Criminal Appeals is giving enormous power to the police to stop people on their will and whim," Harrington said. "Nobody is ever going to drive a car that is perfectly, perfectly in compliance with all the laws and regulations imposed by Legislature." The lone dissent, filed by Judge Lawrence Meyers, called the law unconstitutionally vague. "Nowhere in the statute does it say who is violating the statute if the car has such a license plate cover. Is it the person who put the cover around the license plate? Is it the car's owner? Is it the driver of the car?" Meyers wrote. In her concurring opinion, Cochran offered drivers three pieces of advice: • Remove all license plate frames, attaching the plate with "bare nuts and bolts." • Spend a little extra money, if available, to get a personalized license plate without the doo-dad design details. • Ask the Legislature to enact a law that requires all design work and lettering on Texas license plates to be indented to provide a one-inch white margin at the edges. In the meantime, Cochran warned, beware. "Be prepared to be pulled over and ticketed, and perhaps even arrested (and have your car towed) if your license plate frame obscures even one of the 'starry-night stars' on your license plate. "Mothers driving their children to school should beware; not even the United States Supreme Court will protect you from arrest for violating the Texas Transportation Code." email@example.com, 912-2569
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