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Another new toothless wonder on the books

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Way to go, Arizona. We now have yet another new law without any real teeth.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1073 into law March 28. It will go into effect in August.

Introduced by Sen. Steve Farley, D-District 9, SB 1073 amends Arizona Revised Statute 28-2354.

A.R.S. 28-2354 relates to license plates, specifically how they must be displayed.

SB 1073 amends the statute, which already states, “A person shall maintain each license plate so it is clearly legible,” and, “A person shall maintain each license plate so that the name of this state at the top of the license is not obscured,” with additional verbiage that reads, “Unless authorized by the department, a person shall not apply a covering or any substance to the license plate or use an electronic device or electrochromatic film that obscures from any angle the numbers, characters, year validating tabs or name of the jurisdiction issuing the plate.”

The additional verbiage is talking about those license plate covers that are marketed under the guise of protecting license plates from the elements but are actually intended to make it impossible for photo radar cameras to produce a clear picture of the license plate.

Turns out they also make it impossible for law enforcement officers or witnesses to crimes to read the license plate in certain conditions, namely when the sun is at a low angle.

The law is clearly unnecessary. The original verbiage covers it. It doesn’t state, “A person shall maintain each license plate so it is clearly legible most of the time.” We’re not fans of unnecessary laws, but as technology grows smarter, we see the need for more specific language. Just do a search for our editorials championing texting while driving bans. Arizona already has a distracted driving law on the books, but the advent of the smart phone has taken distracted driving to a level nobody could have fathomed when that bill was crafted.

So we’re OK with a little redundancy, but we’re not OK with the enforcement or the penalty.

The law still states that a peace officer cannot stop or issue a citation to someone who has obscured his plate unless the officer “has reasonable cause to believe there is another alleged violation of a motor vehicle law of this state.” In other words, the person must be speeding or missing a taillight or committing some other primary offense before he can be stopped and then cited for having a license plate cover.

Furthermore, the penalty for obscuring one’s plate is still only $30, increasing to a paltry $100 for those who repeat the violation within a 12-month timeframe.

This would have been a perfect time to amend that portion of A.R.S. 28-2354 as well to make obscuring one’s plate a primary offense and stiffening the fines.

If lawmakers are going to perfect laws already on the books, they should finish the job.

This law has no teeth.

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