State Troopers Will Go Easy on Motorists Who Violate New License Plate Law

A new law allows authorities to pull over vehicles with license plate holders that cover the license plate's state name, but state troopers won't consider it a priority.

Harold Sanders, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, says his agency won't use the law as a way to boost revenues for the state, and citations for violating the law are expected to be minimal.

Still, the change to Arizona's license plate legibility law went into effect this week, and violations could cost motorists a fine of up to $200. The law has caused consternation and confusion among state residents, and one lawmaker already wants it repealed. Some people think the state changed the law just to make money.

Only time will tell how Arizona law enforcement authorities handle the violations. Sanders estimates as many as 30 percent of vehicles on the road could be considered out of compliance.

Sanders says he'd be willing to bet that the number of citations issued in 2009 will be relatively low. In lieu of a ticket, troopers could issue written warnings or a no-penalty order to fix the problem.

Troopers are evaluated on "what type of activity they produce," Sanders says, and they wouldn't be doing their primary job if they wrote lots of these tickets. As usual, DPS officers will focus on stopping motorists for hazardous behavior that could produce a collision, he says.

"Our real purpose is education," he says. "We're looking for voluntary compliance."

The problem is that Arizona has so many different-looking specialty license plates, witnesses to crimes or collisions have problems identifying them, Sanders says. The new law mandates that the state name be visible at the top of the plate.

Fortunately, any monkey with a screwdriver should be able to remove a license plate holder.

In fact, it would take a police officer less time to remove a plate holder than to write a ticket. -- Ray Stern   

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.