– At least in the Town of Wayland, if you happen to be providing free advertising for an auto dealership or your favorite team or school –
There are plenty of “obstructions” to worry about as one gets older. I discovered a new one today: My license plate.
According to the Hon. Richard C. Tweddell, Wayland Town Court, my “RAY LAKS” license plate frame violates Section 402 of New York’s Vehicle & Traffic Law. That provision requires every motor vehicle driven or parked on a public highway to have “distinctive” number plates that are not “obstructed” by any part of the vehicle or by anything carried on the vehicle.
I have nothing against the Town of Wayland’s rolling hills and farms. After all, it is “home to the Gunlocke Company, Loon Lake and the Potato Festival.”
And I harbor no ill will of any kind towards the State Trooper who figured I was being “given a break,” after being pulled over on I-390 on a pleasant July evening, when I was only charged with the violation of “NO DISTINCTIVE PLATE/OBSTRUCTED.”
As I drove the 66 miles or so back to East Aurora But, my inquisitive mind was compelled to ask itself: “Arthur, if your license plate violates V&T § 402(1)(b), doesn’t that mean that the license plates of perhaps 40% or 50% of all cars, SUVs, and trucks traveling (or, parked along) a street in New York State are also in violation?”
And, if all those vehicles do violate VTL 402(1)(b) – even though the offending plastic frame merely obscures the “Empire State” motto, not the color of the plate, or the “distinctive” license plate number – couldn’t the driver be pulled over AT ANY TIME by an officer who doesn’t like the way the driver, a passenger, or even the vehicle looks?
Call me paranoid, but I find this situation troubling. I can still recall how often I was pulled over 40+ years ago for no other reason than the way I looked:
But let me get back to “my day in Court” before Justice Weddell. His Honor was unmoved by my testimony that seven or eight cars sitting in the parking lot to the rear of Wayland’s court house had plates “obscured” in the same manner as mine. And he would not accept into evidence this photo collage:
or this one:
Silly me, not wishing to identify other potential scofflaws, I had altered each license plate to obscure the distinctive license plate number, making the photographs inadmissible.
I am now a full $168.00 poorer:
Fortunately, my little Honda Fit gets great mileage when you set cruise control at 65 mph. And, I am, after all, semi-retired, so I had the time to meander on a beautiful early autumn day out Rte. 20A, along the Town of Sheldon wind turbines, through the hamlet of Varysburg, around the village of Warsaw, and eventually, down Main St. in lovely Mt. Morris to I-390 and beyond.
At this point, all I have left to do is decide whether or not to contact the kind State Trooper who started this whole thing to share the scene that greeted me as I departed the Wayland court house:
I wonder if the offending vehicle’s owner would get ticketed for an obstructed plate?
With All Due Respect,
P.S. Scott Greenfield was kind enough to write about my saga at his excellent Criminal Defense blog Simple Justice: http://blog.simplejustice.us/2014/09/26/an-unobstructed-view/