Ticketed for bike-rack on S.R. 408?

Heard an interesting and possibly disturbing story (if it is really true) from a friend at work.  This concerns an acquaintance of his who recently was taking his car down S.R. 408.  This car was equipped with a Thule bike-rack that plugs into a receiver hitch at the back of the car (not the roof-type) ……

So ….. the story is that the driver is pulled over on S.R. 408, and was given a $80 ticket for …….. <drum role> …… “obscuring the licence plate of the vehicle”!!??!!!!

The story behind the story (supposedly) goes like this ………  the OOCEA  –Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority — has been pushing local authorities to enforce this rule, because the bike-racks are obscuring tags from being photographed when using E-PASS.

My friend said that his friend looked up the law, and indeed there is reference to covering your tag being a violation, and he could not find any reference that allows an exemption for receivers and hitches, etc.  He called around, and no one he talked to had ever heard of this particular statute being interpreted or enforced like this before.

Fact?  Fiction?   Anyone you know that might know anything more about this?

21 replies
  1. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I looked up the statute, FL 316.605 and it does reference defaced and obscuring matter on the tag, but does not specifically reference something in the way. Unfortunately, the wording does specify that the information on the tag has to be visible from 100 feet away:

    316.605 Licensing of vehicles.–

    (1) Every vehicle, at all times while driven, stopped, or parked upon any highways, roads, or streets of this state, shall be licensed in the name of the owner thereof in accordance with the laws of this state unless such vehicle is not required by the laws of this state to be licensed in this state and shall, except as otherwise provided in s. 320.0706 for front-end registration license plates on truck tractors and s. 320.086(5) which exempts display of license plates on described former military vehicles, display the license plate or both of the license plates assigned to it by the state, one on the rear and, if two, the other on the front of the vehicle, each to be securely fastened to the vehicle outside the main body of the vehicle in such manner as to prevent the plates from swinging, and all letters, numerals, printing, writing, and other identification marks upon the plates regarding the word “Florida,” the registration decal, and the alphanumeric designation shall be clear and distinct and free from defacement, mutilation, grease, and other obscuring matter, so that they will be plainly visible and legible at all times 100 feet from the rear or front. Nothing shall be placed upon the face of a Florida plate except as permitted by law or by rule or regulation of a governmental agency. No license plates other than those furnished by the state shall be used. However, if the vehicle is not required to be licensed in this state, the license plates on such vehicle issued by another state, by a territory, possession, or district of the United States, or by a foreign country, substantially complying with the provisions hereof, shall be considered as complying with this chapter. A violation of this subsection is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.

    I saw a post during my research that Texas has some wording which allows a loophole of sorts for bike racks, because it’s not a defacement or alteration.

    By the same token, license plate frames that block “Florida” or “myflorida.org” or other lettering on the plate are also in violation.

    Additional research shows that 318.18 (non-moving violation penalties) state that the fine should be thirty american dollars. If the officer wrote a citation on a moving violation, he is incorrect and the ticketed driver should refute it.

    I also noted that my favorite statute, 316.2065 has a maximum penalty of fifteen american dollars. Of course, any officer who writes me up for that statute is acknowledging my correct use of the lane.

    Is it worth thirty dollars (and/or a battle to keep it that low) or does one make some form of quick release for the tag and relocate it to a visible point on the rack. I’ve seen people with wheelchair and hoverround transport racks who have plate mounts with lights to prevent the obscuration of the tag.

  2. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    As an aside, I cannot picture any cycling advocacy group getting this law or the laws in other states changed. There are valid reasons to have a visible tag and no amount of cajoling is likely to change those reasons.

  3. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Towing a trailer would pose a similar problem. Sure, if you’re towing your own trailer they can ID you that way (thought the Expressway Authority probably wouldn’t have your trailer tag info), but what if you’re borrowing a trailer?

  4. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    I have a Saris bike rack on the back of my sedan. View of the license plate is obstructed when a bike is mounted on the rack. I guess I need to display the license plate or a cardboard placard with my license plate number in the rear window.

  5. Brian
    Brian says:

    The options available from the bike rack manufactureres don’t really make it easy to comply with the law. That’s one bike related lesson I don’t mind carrying over from Europe.

  6. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    I called OOCEA today and asked what was their position on this … the answer I got was that there was nothing active taking place. While they agreed it would be benificial for them to be able to see all licence plates, they indicated that they are not actively pursing this kind of offense.

    By the way, LisaB made a comment about a temporary tag. I don’t think you can create your own tag (legally) ……..

  7. Bike Mom
    Bike Mom says:

    I just got a ticket for the same thing in Missouri. This is NO JOKE. I’m fighting it– we’ll see what happens.

  8. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    Yep this is true, I was pulled over last week on East Colonial on the East side of Orlando for an obstructed tag. I thought the tag had to be “permanently mounted” and since the rack is removable ….. I’m not sure. I know you can’t have two tags and switching is a total PIA. Truck is to tall for a roof rack (bike), or I’m too short. I did ask officer Bonetti what Orange County does with their racks and the officers reply was well ours cover our tags but our number (I guess car # he didn’t specify) is on all four sides if the the car. I commented that that was an option but he didn’t find it amusing. So I went out and bought a $4 tag mount and bolted it to my rack and then swapped the tag. Next they’ll hit me for no light on the tag. Sheesh!


  9. Keri
    Keri says:

    Aaron, Thanks for the letting us know. So this isn’t just about the expressway authority. Did the officer give you a warning or a ticket?

    When there are bikes on the rack, can the rack-mounted tag still be seen?

  10. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I sent an email to the FL DMV asking about getting a second plate to attach permanently to the bike rack, along with adding lights to connect to the trailer light plug. They don’t need to respond to the lights aspect, for obvious reasons, but they didn’t respond all that well to my question. Not a single point was addressed, only a vague recitation of the statutes:

    Thank you for your recent inquiry.

    Florida only requires one license plate to be affixed to the rear of the motor vehicle, which is the official plate. Section 316.605, Florida Statutes, states, vehicle license plates shall be affixed and displayed in such a manner that the letters and numerals shall be read from left to right parallel to the ground. No vehicle license plate may be displayed in an inverted or reversed position or in such a manner that the letters and numbers and their proper sequence are not readily identifiable.

    We hope this information will assist you.

    Obviously, it does not assist anyone. Does anyone know a traffic judge? You’d think I would, but I got my citations dismissed by pushing papers.

  11. doug e
    doug e says:

    Maybe we just need to go to the two license plate system like many other states and then it won’t be an issue. As near as I can tell the states that only have one plate are in the minority in the country so I say make the switch.

    While we are at it, let’s bring back the vehicle inspections that we used to have in the early 70’s at least that way once a year some of the wrecks I see on our roads would have all the necessary lights and such.

    • v knipp
      v knipp says:

      I got stopped yesterday in Texas for obstruction. No bike…Saris rack tilted up. I’ve driven like this for 12 mo’s…San antonio, Austin, etc and no comments. I have a plate on the front. Guess when I go through that county I’ll tilt my rack down. Geez!

  12. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    I was pulled over after dark on Goldenrod two nights ago for the bike rack obscuring the tag. It is a Thule rack that mounts in the trailer hitch. Got away with a warning, but am unsure what to do to rectify the situation. It’s a problem to see this being enforced without any solution being presented. Thought about photocopying the plate and mounting it in the back window – don’t know if this would help.

  13. Ron
    Ron says:

    Here’s the thing. Undercover cop cars now have radar that shots out of the cop car and reflects off your tag (that is why all new tags are very reflective) back to the cop car. If tag is covered, they can’t check your speed. Cop cars now have cameras, in the car, that photographs and runs your plates and has all your information posted on the computer before they even pull you over. These r why all the states passed the obstruction laws. License plates covers don’t cover the letters and numbers, just the state. Cops should no, but they can’t use their cameras if state is covered.

    Just FYI

  14. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Ron, I’m not sure what information you have as a source, but reflective signal “radar” comes in two forms, optical and radio waves. Disregarding the technical aspect that optical is radio waves at a very high frequency, optical speed checking is done with an infrared laser, sighted with something similar to the scope on a rifle and received in the same manner. The officer need not view a plate for this to happen, especially as it is typically performed at oncoming traffic.

    Traditional radar, using radio waves, need only a metallic reflective surface and is also typically performed in the direction of oncoming traffic.

    License plate obstructions are a violation of the law because law enforcement wants to ensure that a vehicle is properly registered and is displaying the tag in a lawful manner.

    The cameras in the car are a new development and certainly the law enforcement community wants to be able to read your tag, and let the computer automatically check that it’s current, not stolen and any number of other infractions that could be posted against the tag number.

    In the state of Florida, if you have a frame around your plate that even partially blocks the wording on the tag, you can be cited for an obstruction violation.

    There is a difference between information from the tag and speed checking. The plate matters not in the latter circumstance.

  15. Yo-Nick
    Yo-Nick says:

    Pulled over for Obstructed plate in 2010 and beat it after 8 trips to court-Sunshine State on a dealer bracket can be covered-tell local cops! They had to toss weed charge too-I left FL_and have MMJ license NOW:)!!!!Smokin the Kind in Kalie:)))!

    • courtney
      courtney says:

      Yo-Nick!!!! Please, I need your help! i got pulled over in port st lucie florida for having a headlight out and ended up with a $115 ticket because the cop said my license plate was concealed. The dealership frame on my license plate (that’s been on there for 8 years) covers the very bottom half of the words “sunshine state”. Everything else is clearly visible. I’m definitely going to fight it, do you have any advice for me, or is there a way i can look up your case online so I can bring it? what did you base your case on? I hope you see this and respond, I don’t know anyone else this has happened to and could really use the advice! Thanks

  16. Logical One
    Logical One says:

    Haven’t any of you ever seen a personal mobility device carrier on the back of some old fart’s Crown Victoria? The manufacturer always makes an alternate spot to put the tag because the mobility device rack obscures the back of the car (along with the tag). They have thought of that…why haven’t these bike rack manufacturers? The light isn’t a big deal. The SAO in district 10 in Florida says that’s not PC enough for a traffic stop…the tag light being out, that is.

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