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Claim: The state of Texas has passed a law making it illegal to have a frame or bracket around the license plate on your car.
Origins: In May 2003 the Texas state legislature passed
The purpose of the law was to make it illegal for the operators of motor vehicles to obscure the letters and numbers on their license plates by applying reflective material that makes plates hard to read, or by affixing stickers, attaching brackets, or using any other material that covers up a portion of the license numbers on the plates or otherwise obscures clear reading of the plate numbers:
Senate Bill 439 amends Section 502.409(a), Transportation Code, to provide that, in addition to current statutory restrictions, a person commits an offense if the person attaches to or displays on a motor vehicle a number plate or registration insignia that:The intent of these revisions was for Texas to bring its motor vehicle code up to date (as many other states have already done) to prohibit newer means for obscuring the readability of license plates, particularly schemes aimed at preventing the recording of plate numbers by cameras or other automated devices. The 2003 law did not say that drivers may absolutely not place brackets, frames, or stickers (other than registration stickers) on or around their license plates; it said specifically that plates may not be covered by material that alters or interferes with the readability of plate numbers or the name of the state in which the vehicle is registered or another original design feature of the plate (i.e., some aspect of the plate, such as the color or logo, which helps identify the issuing state).
Of course, regardless of the intent behind the law, what motorists care about most is how it's interpreted and enforced. If having a license plate frame which covers even a tiny portion of the word 'Texas' is considered a violation (even though the word itself may still be quite readable), then the practical effect of the law is to ban license plate frames, because nearly every frame will overlap some portion of the top and bottom of a license plate. And what about specialty plates
We wish we could provide a definitive answer, but we haven't been able to get one out of Texas officials. The Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) told us it only issues license plates; it doesn't interpret motor vehicle laws. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) provided us with the ambiguous answer that "the new language could affect license plate brackets, borders or frames if they interfere with the 'readability' of the state where the vehicle is registered" and noted that "DPS policy and interpretation are not binding on law enforcement agencies around the state." In other words, it's up to every local police department to interpret the new law as it sees fit, and any definitive interpretation will come only once some cases involving this law have been brought before the Texas judicial system.
A 2007 revision (SB 369, effective
A person commits an offense if the person attaches to or displays on a motor vehicle a number plate or registration insignia that:Last updated: 12 September 2007
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