Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Anonymity and Social Responsibility

I began this entry with thoughts of advising the public of the laws against using license plate frames that cover any portion of the plate. I will eventually get around to some of that. But in doing some research for that topic, I discovered products on the market designed to obscure license plate numbers in ways that I was not previously aware.

I found sites that sell products specifically designed to distort the view of the number or hide the number from photography. (I refuse to place the links to the sites here because I do not want to promote illegal acts, or even to increase traffic to sites that promote illegal acts) There were claims on those sites that their products are legal, even a copy of a news broadcast with a study conducted by the Denver Police Department demonstrating the effectiveness of these products.

Much of the propaganda used to sell these products say that you should use these products to prevent getting a ticket. I suggest to you instead, that you should avoid breaking the traffic laws to avoid getting a ticket. Much to my chagrin, the increased population and mobile aspects to our society lend to these types of efforts to remain anonymous in the violation of our safety laws, and in so doing attempt to clothe oneself with the illusion that the laws don't apply.

Responsibility for our actions doesn't just attach when we are caught, it should come from our own morality and acceptance of the sacrifices that we each must make to live in an orderly world with other people.

As with anything however, that concept can be taken too far. Balance is the key.

I quickly then flipped through the Delaware Code to find what I recalled as being a pretty basic prohibition against covering up the data on the plate, and found much more.

Our code seems to be up to date on these issues and thoroughly prohibit using and selling all such obscuring materials, even if they are not apparent to the naked eye.

21 Del.C. 2126


(c) No number plate, or any portion thereof, shall be covered
with any tinted material, nor shall any other material be placed
on or around a number plate which would conceal and/or obscure
any information contained thereon, including the registration
expiration sticker. Plate frames that do not conceal and/or
obscure any information contained on the plate, including the
registration expiration sticker, are not prohibited by this

(d) Whoever violates subsections (a), (b) or (c) of this
section shall be fined not less than $25 nor more than $50.

(e) It shall be unlawful to sell, offer to sell, transfer,
possess or use any kind of device, product, plate cover, or
object, including any image altering device or spray, for the
purpose of hindering, inhibiting, impeding, impairing, or
preventing the photographing, recording or imaging of a license
plate in connection with the enforcement of this motor vehicle
code or any local or municipal traffic laws. Any person convicted
of a violation of this subsection shall, for the first offense, be
fined not less than $50 nor more than $1,000. For each subsequent
violation occurring within 3 years of the date of the original
violation, the person shall be fined not less than $200 nor more
than $2,000.

(f) It shall be unlawful to sell any license plate cover or frame
which would violate subsection (c) of this section if placed on a
Delaware license plate unless the seller posts a sign in close proximity
to the product which states clearly and conspicuously to the public that
it is illegal to place the license plate cover or frame on Delaware
license plates. Any person convicted of a violation of this section shall
be fined not less than $50 and not more than $100 and shall pay
restitution to the purchaser of the license plate cover or frame in the
amount of ten times the purchase price.

The Newark City Code differs from the State Code significantly on several points. But I will save that for another discussion.

I frequently hear folks say . . . " I see these things all over, so I assumed they were legal". Well, all I can tell you is there are a lot of people violating these laws. The police tell me that they are bringing them in, one at a time.

Check your plates to make sure you are in the clear.

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