Bill would make license plate covers illegal
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Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
You’ve probably seen them. You may actually have one. Now, state lawmakers are moving to make it crystal clear that those plastic lenses that fit over your license plate are illegal.
The covers have gained popularity in recent years with the spread of photo radar and red-light cameras. The systems count on being able to document a violation and send a citation to the registered owner. If the license plate can’t be read, there’s no one to whom the ticket can be sent.
That annoyed Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix.
“At the end of the day, people are putting these plastic coverings on for one purpose, and that is to skirt the law,’’ he said.
Cheuvront succeeded Tuesday in attaching an amendment to unrelated legislation about the state Department of Transportation to spell out that it would be illegal to apply any covering to a license plate “that obscures from any angle the numbers, characters, year validating tabs or name of the jurisdiction issuing the plate.’’
The idea, now part of HB2250, drew derision from Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa. He said the proposal is unnecessary because state law already requires that license plates be “clearly legible.’’
“If your plate is obscured for whatever reason, whether it’s paint from a painter’s truck who has spilled paint, whether it’s too much mud from mud bogging or whether it’s a clear plastic plate that’s no longer clear, it’s already illegible,’’ he said.
That’s true, according to Sgt. Harold Sanders of the state Department of Public Safety. Sanders said DPS officers sometimes stop motorists and ticket them solely because a license plate cover makes their plate unreadable.
He could not immediately say how many citations have been issued, but acknowledged that the number is far less than the number of cars on Arizona roads with those plastic covers.
Sanders said one reason more tickets are not being issued is that some of what is being sold to Arizona motorists, both at stores and through the Internet, just doesn’t work.
“A lot of the stuff is bogus,’’ he said, saying his department has the photo radar photos to prove that, cover or not, the cameras can read the license plate.
Much of Tuesday’s debate revolved around the merits of photo radar, particularly in light of a directive by Gov. Janet Napolitano to have DPS deploy fixed and mobile speeding cameras throughout the state.
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said that was done without specific permission from the Legislature.
Gubernatorial press aide Jeanine L’Ecuyer, however, said Napolitano is on firm legal ground.