Texas State Senate Bill 439 went into effect on Sept. 1, making certain alterations and distractions around vehicle license plates to be illegal, and Huntsville police and SHSU students comment on the goals of the new law.
According to S.B. 439, attached illumination devices such as neon or other lights around or on the plate, surfaces that blur or reflect the numbers and letters, or stickers, decals and other obstructive objects on the plate are prohibited. Along with blocking the letters and numbers on the plate, the state’s name at the top of the plate must also be in plain view.
Offenders caught with such items on or around the license plate will be fined by an amount decided upon by the local municipal court.
Huntsville Police Department Sergeant Ron Cleere said prior to the passage of the law, such obstructions were not a major problem in Huntsville, but that it was not unheard of either. He added that some residents have taken steps to avoid being prosecuted.
“We’ve had a number of calls from local people asking us what to do about the items on their plates, and we told them to remove them,” Cleere said.
Along with decals added by buyers, Cleere said that many car dealerships still violate the law as well when selling vehicles.
“A lot of dealers still provide the plastic frame which is in violation of the new law,” he said.
Cleere added that students should be aware that the law pertains to both rear and front plates, and that placing another item in the front holder other than a plate is illegal.
SHSU students seemed to be in agreement that the law is extreme in demanding the appearance of the plate, particularly with having the word “Texas” appear unobstructed.
Senior Ben Bralley said the new law may have some good points to it, but for the most part is pretty frivolous.
“I kind of think it’s ridiculous,” Bralley said. “It could be good, I guess, but I think it’s just a way to have the state make money.”
Senior Courtney Rhea also felt the law has both good parts and bad parts.
“I understand the neon light one because that’s kind of distracting to the person behind them,” Rhea said. “But if you can tell it’s a Texas plate then it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Senior Jim Salzer agreed with both Bralley and Rhea.
“I don’t like it,” Salzer said. “I think it’s not a good law. It’s just a way for the state to make money. It would be a good law if (the obstructions) covered up the letters and numbers, then I could understand it.”
Salzer added that the license plate number is the most important part to see, and covering up anything else should not be illegal.
“If you can still read the letters and numbers, then it shouldn’t matter if the “Lone Star State” or the name of Texas is covered up because we know where we live,” Salzer said.