An Unobstructed View

It’s long been a peccadillo of mine, that when I buy a car, it’s not a free advertising opportunity for the dealer. If they want it to be their billboard, they are free to negotiate for the space. If not, then there is no reason for the dealership’s name to adorn my vehicle.  Most people, however, don’t care.

It used to be a metal plaque drilled into the trunk of the car, which later devolved to a sticker and then, now, a tasteless license plate frame.  Dealers can be so compulsive about their free advertising opportunity that I’ve had one switch out my plain frame for theirs when my car was brought in for service.

They’re ubiquitous, though most do something that has surprisingly been ignored. They violate section 402(1)(b) of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, which provides:

Number plates shall be kept clean and in a condition so as to be easily readable and shall not be covered by glass or any plastic material, and shall not be knowingly covered or coated with any artificial or synthetic material or substance that conceals or obscures such number plates or that distorts a recorded or photographic image of such number plates, and the view of such number plates shall not be obstructed by any part of the vehicle or by anything carried thereon . . ..

Bet you didn’t know that. Bet you, like everyone else, assumed that if the dealer put his advertising frame on your plate, it must be lawful.  And maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t.  Certainly, Arthur Giacalone, brother of my old buddy David Giacalone of f/k/a fame, thought nothing of it until the day a state trooper disrupted his cruising down I-390 in Wayland, New York.

I have nothing against the Town of Wayland’s rolling hills and farms. After all, it is “home to the Gunlocke Company, Loon Lake and the Potato Festival.”

And I harbor no ill will of any kind towards the State Trooper who figured I was being “given a break,” after being pulled over on I-390 on a pleasant July evening, when I was only charged with the violation of “NO DISTINCTIVE PLATE/OBSTRUCTED.”


Wayland - AJG's rear plate 07-13-14

It wasn’t so much that the trooper was wrong, as that this wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary. If they were going to go after Arthur, then who else?  This seemed like a valid issue, so Arthur challenged his ticket before the Wayland Justice Court before the non-lawyer judge, Hon. Richard C. Tweddell.

While the argument seems rather facially obvious, Arthur gathered some evidence to make his point:


Convinced yet? No? Okay then.


Does this do it for you?  Still no?  Well, how about this pic from the special judge’s parking spot at the Wayland court?


Rather compelling evidence of the point, one might suppose. Unfortunately, one might be wrong.

His Honor was unmoved by my testimony that seven or eight cars sitting in the parking lot to the rear of Wayland’s court house had plates “obscured” in the same manner as mine. And he would not accept into evidence this photo collage.

According to the court, by having obscured the plate numbers for the privacy of the unwitting car owners, the judge found that the images were of no evidentiary value and rejected them.


And the fine of $75 was imposed, together with the surcharge of $93, because money, for a grand total of $168.  Arthur could, if he so desired, dedicate even more of his life and fortune to the quest for justice by appealing, but he’s decided that his gas-frugal Honda Fit has allowed him to save enough to pay the tare without breaking a sweat.  But that doesn’t mean it’s over.

At this point, all I have left to do is decide whether or not to contact the kind State Trooper who started this whole thing to share the scene that greeted me as I departed the Wayland court house.

Why the trooper decided that Arthur’s car, of all the cars that pass through Wayland, was the one to stop for an obscured plate may never be known.  But what is known is that if a judge is going to levy the fine, plus the significantly more costly surcharge, he would do well not to have the evidence of guilt sitting outside in the judicial parking place, completely unobscured.

Right, Hon. Richard C. Tweddell?  Nice Jeep, by the way.

16 thoughts on “An Unobstructed View

      1. Kathleen Casey

        Good idea. But I would be objective. : ]

        And I see where it is, near a hunting camp I could stay at to argue it. It’s just a trailer, but still.

  1. John Burgess

    The law is similar in FL and the ignoring of the law, too.

    I also hesitate to turn me or my possessions into advertising platforms. I don’t wear clothing with manufacturer or designer ID; I even cover the little apple image on my iPhone. The way dealers deface cars to promote themselves has been a personal peeve.

    So much of a peeve, in fact, that I’ve been mulling over the wording of the amendment to the purchase agreement for my next vehicle. I want it to read something along the lines of:

    No dealer identification, indicia, decal, or other advertising shall be affixed to the vehicle being purchased. If any such advertising is seen on the vehicle at the time it is to be picked up, the sale will be cancelled. All deposit or down payment will be refunded immediately.

    I might cut slack over the license plate holder — even though it provides a valid pretext for me to be pulled over — simply because I can change it with little effort. I would probably change whatever holder there was, if any, in any case.

  2. David Giacalone

    Nice coverage, Scott. Thanks. Arthur actually has had a photography hobby for decades (long before myself). As they often do, parenthood and lawyerhood have greatly limited his hobby time.

    It’s sort of sad that memory of me as a blawger is so obscured, after only 5 years, no one even mentioned that my twin brother seems to be afflicted with the same quixotic wish for justice to be fair, rational, simple, as was ethicalESq.

    p.s. It was surprising for me to find out no one had used the name “With All Due Respect” for a weblog when Arthur started WADR. Unlike Hank Williams, Jr., I hope Arthur won’t have to live out the story behind all of his postings.

      1. Fubar

        Almost plagiarized advertising copy from an ISP which shall not be named, which could change your life in the internet’s valle lacrimarum:

        Save yourself from that sad, lonesome plight.
        Get fast internet, faster than light.
        Stop blogging a week,
        Then come back, take a peek.
        You’ll find it’s the previous night.


  4. pml

    I guess since the trooper gave him a break and didn’t write him for his speeding he shouldn’t complain so much.

      1. pml

        Nothing Majic about it. The ticket is marked as a #2 stop. Thats a Radar stop. So it appears he got a roadside reduction and still complained.

        On the “With All Due Respect” site the ticket number is posted.

        1. SHG Post author

          Well, the ticket was marked #2, so there. Conclusive proof of guilt. Lucky the ticket wasn’t marked that he had sex with dogs too. You really don’t get this whole legal system thing at all, do you?

          But regardless, people are still allowed to challenge a ticket on a dubious application of law, even if the cop was the coolest, nicest guy ever for cutting him a break. That, too, is the nature of the whole legal system thing.

    1. SHG Post author

      When there’s a real issue at stake, there’s an opportunity to challenge nonsense laws like this at the basis for the stop. The DC decision reminds us why these ridiculous laws lead to far more serious consequences and can be abused.

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