Unsuspecting motorists who may have been breaking the law may get a reprieve.

State legislators have passed the bill which would re-write the law that made it illegal to obscure any part of a license plate.

The Texas House last week approved the legislation; the Senate approved it earlier. (S.B. 360)

Under the new law, provided it is signed by the Governor, states license plate holders are not in violation of the law as long as the license plate number is visible and most of the name of the issuing state is visible and not altered.

The problems with license plate covers began with the passage, in 2003, of the revisions to Section 502.409 of the Transportation Code. The purpose of the bill was to prevent the use of products that would obscure information on license plates (like the reflective spray) and circumvent the effective use of photo radar and law enforcement cameras.

Some law enforcement agencies took this change in the law to extremes. Some agencies have even stopped motorists and issued citation for obscuring the starry night or the cowboy on horseback riding along the bottom of the plates even if the plate number and the word Texas were clearly visible.

One citation for an obscured license plate out of Fredericksburg resulted in the person being charge with a DWI. That case was appealed up to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. (State v. Johnson)

The Court of Criminal Appeals decision highlighted the absurdity of the law, but still held that the officer had the right to stop and cite the person. It would have been interesting to see what the court would have done, had it not been part of a DWI case.

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