The license plate has two purposes.
• With the properly updated registration stickers affixed, it’s proof that the owner of the car attached to it has its registration and license fees paid up.
• It identifies the car’s owner to law enforcement officers or witnesses to criminal activities (such as fleeing bank robbers) or civil infractions (such as speeding or other traffic violations). Last week, however, by a 3-2 vote, the state Senate Transportation Committee rejected a bill that would have made it illegal through various means to obstruct a plate from view from all angles.
As Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer reported, one of the majority, Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, said that “the real issue” with the bill “is that cities are not getting the revenue off the photo radar.”
Senate Bill 1156’s primary sponsor, Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, told the committee of a recent alleged hit-and-run accident in which witnesses could not read a fleeing vehicle’s license plate because it had a plastic cover. But the argument was in vain. Blendu was joined by GOP Sens. Pamela Gorman of Anthem and Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City in rejecting the bill.
We agree with what Cheuvront told Fischer: It’s one thing to philosophically oppose photo enforcement. It’s another to continue to allow anyone — and not just alleged speeders or red-light runners, but would-be thieves, robbers, kidnappers and others who don’t want to be identified as they attempt a getaway — to frustrate attempts to identify their vehicles on public streets.
Moreover, if the Legislature had appropriated more funding to the Arizona Department of Public Safety to hire more highway patrol officers, it’s quite likely that Scottsdale officials would never have embarked on assuming liability for an experimental freeway speed-camera program.
SB1156 was a reasonable effort to make sure that those drivers suspected of speeding — or of fleeing after robbing or kidnapping or assaulting or worse — can be identified. If photo enforcement didn’t exist, such a bill should have become law to aid in the apprehension of criminal suspects. However, because photo enforcement does exist, such suspects still have at their disposal quite legal means to prevent their vehicles from being identified. Perhaps that satisfies some legislators’ philosophical concerns. It sure doesn’t satisfy ours. And it sure wouldn’t satisfy those of crime victims.