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Fictitious plate?

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May 24, 2012, 10:15
Fictitious plate?
This is a head scratcher.

A man was stopped by DPS the other day for driving his Mercedes with what appeared to be license plates from Rome, Italy. Upon examination, the vehicle registration was in order, and the numbers assigned to the Texas Plates issued by the Tax Assessor matched those on the "Italian" plate.

Apparently, these are being sold as novelties, with bad advice (from whom, I don't know) that they are perfectly street legal, since they have the proper Texas plate number on them.

Problem. Sec. 502.409(a)(4), Transportation makes it a class B misdemeanor to drive around with a "fictitious plate". There is no definition in the Code for a "fictitious plate", and I can't find a case defining the term.

This has me stumped. I say that a common definition makes it obvious that this situation fits the Code, despite word parsing arguments giving credence to the Texas numbers being on the plate. My view is that any plate not authorized by TXDOT to be put on your vehicle is a fictitious plate.

Am I being a bast*rd, or should people really know better?

Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
May 24, 2012, 10:19
John A. Stride
Something on fake law enforcement badges may help, but I have not looked.
May 24, 2012, 10:40
e sainz
I agree with you, but a jury might not. You could try to prosecute and see if the defendant will cooperate and tell you where the plate was purchased, and DPS could investigate the company selling the plates.
If this is an effort to save a traffic stop that yielded dope or some other greater offense, all the officer needed was reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. If pc developed to believe other crime/s committed, then it doesn't matter if plate/registration number turned out to be valid. Look at the TDCAA Traffic Stops book.
May 24, 2012, 10:54
I see where you are going on this. I looked, and can't make it fit. I ahve looked at tampering with a governmental record, forgery, etc., as well, but I can't find anything that fits. I think we may have to make some case law before we have an answer. Meanwhile, some poor fool will get hauled off to jail for being an idiot.
May 24, 2012, 10:55
Oh, I have no problem with the stop at all. People are asking to be stopped when they have these. I guess it's a question of how far we should push the envelope and actually bust people for the fictitious plate.
May 24, 2012, 10:56
I would say if the physical plate is not manufactured or issued by TxDMV, it's fictitious. The fact the actual license plate number matches TxDMV registration data is irrelevant. If it wasn't, there would be no difference between displaying this novelty plate or someone writing their license plate number issued to them by TxDMV on cardboard with a Sharpie marker and slapping it on their car. Plates not manufactured by TxDMV do not conform to other standards such as reflectivity and visibility. This is the reason the physical plates must be replaced with TxDMV after so many years -- the reflective and protective coating wears off with time. The numbers on the plate are printed in particular font and font size and manufactured so they can be read easily, both visually at a distance and by electronic optical readers, and clearly identify the STATE of issuance. The license plate manufacturing standards are created so that plates are uniform, and counterfeits can clearly be identified. This would be like someone losing their driver license or not liking how the photo turned out. They can't just create a new one at home to avoid paying the duplicate fee as long as all the information on the front matches what DPS has on file.

Sounds like if the guy likes how Italian plates look on his vehicle, there are several daily flights out of IAH to Italy....
May 24, 2012, 11:24
Yup, Gig'em - it all makes sense. I have looked at the DMV website, and these are definitely NOT specialty plates licensed by the State. Interesting to note that you get those plates the same place you get the regular general issue plates, though you may order them from a licensed vendor. The vendor sends them to the Tax Assessorfor pick up (I guess the Tax Assessor can mail them to you). SO, my thinking is, if it doesn't get delivered by a State or County agency, it's a fictitious plate.

BTW - it was a doctor who got stopped. These plates are popular with lawyers, too. One guy stopped with them said he was "entitled" to have it because he was celebrating his ethnic heritage.

I really do love the probable cause aspect to putting these on - dopers are probably going to fall in love with these plates.
May 25, 2012, 14:20
Shannon Edmonds
Originally posted by MDK27:
One guy stopped with them said he was "entitled" to have it because he was celebrating his ethnic heritage.

I think these people will come to find that a bumper sticker is much cheaper than a defense lawyer.