Really bad law that needs to be changed

Lindell, Statesman:

Texans 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."

Hat tip to Kevin, who had commented on it previously.

This is potentially a much bigger threat to civil liberties (in that it allows any rogue police officer to capriciously pull over probably something like 50% of the population) than something like...oh, I don't know, the death penalty, yet I see nothing on the Texas ACLU's website. [To be fair, I didn't see anything on their website about the death penalty either, but I still think it's a fair comparison.]

Posted by Evan @ 02/20/07 02:38 PM


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