News Release
From the Office of State Senator Jeff Wentworth

For Immediate Release
September 26, 2003
Contact:Margaret Rambie - (210) 826-7800

Obscured license plate could be motorists' ticket to fine

A traffic law that took effect September 1 is catching some Texas motorists with their license plates framed illegally.

Senate Bill 439 makes it illegal to attach to a license plate any material that obscures information, including the name of the state or any other original design feature. License plates framed or obscured illegally could result in a ticket and a fine of up to $200.

Car dealers accustomed to attaching frames with the dealership's name have been particularly hard hit as have some drivers who contacted my office after receiving a ticket issued by a municipal police officer.

Texas Highway Patrol Chief R. K. Ellison said Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers will issue only warnings for 90 days. After November 30 troopers will ticket drivers whose license plate holders obscure either the word "TEXAS" or any of the main letters or numbers on the plate.

Drivers whose license plates can be easily identified should have no problem, even if the plates are framed. The new law also prohibits attaching "reflective" material or illuminated devices that interfere with toll-road cameras or with peace officers' efforts to read the plate.

Some Texans claim that this law is unnecessary. The fact is that companies are marketing technologically advanced products designed to obscure license plate information, purposefully defeating photo radar and enforcement cameras.

A violation is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $200; however, if it can be proven that drivers deliberately obscured their plates by making its numbers and other identification marks illegible they could be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.

While Texans like to display their loyalties to various universities, colleges, schools, projects and even family members, we need to remember to do so in a manner that does not obscure the license plate.

In lieu of a frame, I hope many Texans find that the perfect license plate is one that identifies them as a "Native Texan." The new "Native Texan" plate features an image of the Alamo and the San Jacinto Monument set against a background of the Texas flag, and it may be purchased for an extra $30.

I introduced the legislation creating the new plate which will benefit The Daughters of the Republic of Texas. They will receive $22 from each plate to maintain the state's historic sites they manage, such as the Alamo which costs $5 million annually.

A list of other speciality license plates, including those for colleges and universities, military, veterans, clubs and organizations is available at the Texas Department of Transportation's web site, Click on "automobiles" and then on "special license plates."

Displaying your preferences and loyalties with a special license plate is a legal alternative to an illegal frame, and possibly a cheaper one as well.