Wednesday, February 14, 2007

'An uncommonly bad law'

Bradley Clark at the Texas Law Blog tells about a case where a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge admonished the Legislature that they'd passed "an uncommonly bad law" when they made it a ticketable offense to obscure parts of the edge of your license plate. Reports Clark:
Judge Cochran correctly concluded that the majority decided the legal question correctly (i.e., that it is a violation of State law) but that section 502.409(a)(7)(B) "is an uncommonly bad 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." (emphasis added). And after taking the very unusual position of telling the State Legislature that this section is an "uncommonly bad law," Judge Cochran goes further and points out that members of the Legislature (as well as members of the Judiciary) are entitled to "special" licenses plates that don't have all the design work that your's and mine have and yet the same license plate frame which would obscure our license plate will not obscure their's.
I was actually at the legislative committee hearing when this bill was heard, and recall being surprised at the racial overtones to the debate. It was all complaints about gold chains around the edges of license plates, coupled with worried laments about people with lights circling around the outside of the LP - in essence stuff you mostly see among young black drivers. The notion that car dealers do the same thing as advertising literally never came up at the hearing.

I was there to speak on another bill so I didn't address it, but upon departing, I noticed driving home all the dealer tag liners on nearly every car, as Bradley's post mentioned, that obviously violated the proposed law. I remember thinking to myself, 'that bill's dead, the car dealers will kill it."

I was stunned when it made it through, and I agree with Judge Cochran it's a ridiculous statute that wastes everybody's time and serves little purpose but as a pretext for harassment.

UPDATE: Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston has filed HB 743 which, it appears to me, would fix this "uncommonly bad law" as Judge Cochran has suggested.

NUTHER UPDATE: Dutton's bill should get a boost from wide coverage this morning (2/15) from AP and also the Austin Statesman, where Chuck Lindell adds these quotes from Judge Cochran:

"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."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"We're surrounded by a legislature of stupids". What could this law possibly have to do with crime prevention or improvement of public safety?

I just know they have better things to do! Like making the BPP adhere to their own guidelines.