I must say that it has taken me almost a month to decide to write this post, but I finally decided it was the right thing to do. I know this post will probably go unread by many and that the people that SHOULD read it won’t. Many reasons for this but basically, I just need to make a couple points in the open, no matter who hears it or not. I also know that nothing will come out of this post, except my own relief.
First the backstory…My wife and I cannot afford for our 17-year old son to have his own car. So he uses one of our two when they are available. And we try to make one available for him whenever he needs it. We pay his insurance and keep gas in the vehicles, and he pays us 25% of his net income. We still end up paying more out of pocket than he gives us, but he is learning some responsibility as well…
The one thing we have always told him is that if he should get a ticket or an accident, he would be responsible for any increase in the insurance. So on September 2, he received a ticket on his way home from work. Now, I only have his story so I really only know what he has told me, but I have to trust his story at this point.
He has about a 30 mile drive to and from work, so he left that night at approximately 11:30 pm to come home. He was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. He had not been drinking and the officer ending up citing him for a tag border violation. According to the statute, the tag border cannot obscure the word Florida, any applied decal such as the year of registration, or the readability of the plate from 100 feet away.
316.605 Licensing of vehicles.
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 not higher than 60 inches and not lower than 12 inches from the ground and no more than 24 inches to the left or right of the centerline of the vehicle, and 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. 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. 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.
Let’s not forget the fact that this tag border has been on the vehicle for almost three years – and was put on there by the dealer when I bought the truck. It is just a black piece of plastic about half an inch thick all the way around the edge of the whole plate.
So my first response is that it should be illegal for the dealers to put these on the vehicles if they are illegal. My second response is about the police department that issued the ticket. An my third response is about the traffic ticket system in general.
So if the Florida government has made these illegal then they should be enforcing this at the dealer level. Quit letting the dealers put these on cars. I drove about 30 miles each way myself every day and I see some sort of border, usually a dealer advertisement, on probably 70%+ of all the cars I pass. I know that I have never even thought about this until my son received this ticket. If I was a real jack-ass of a police officer, I could spend ANY eight-hour shift doing nothing but writing these tickets…
Which leads me to the second response…My son received his ticket in the unincorporated area of Mulberry, Florida. This area is known for it quasi-militant police practices. They issue a lot of tickets for stupid infractions such as this. While I fully support the idea of sobriety checkpoints, they should not be using these to issue tickets just as a revenue source, which I believe was the purpose in this case. And then let’s add to the fact that this ticket was issued by a police officer from Haines City, in the town of Mulberry and the ticket has to be paid in the city of Winter Haven. What? Let me restate that: a ticket issued in an unincorporated town of Mulberry in Polk County, Florida, by an officer of the Haines City Police Department that has to be paid in the city of Winter Haven. I just don’t get how the jurisdiction laws were not violated here…
And finally, my last point. I would love to contest this ticket in court, but I really cannot. The first hurdle is that it is merely he said/she said as far as evidence goes. My son’s word against the police officer’s. If the officer shows up for court, the chances are likely they will side with him and we would lose. What possible reason would they believe my 17-year old son over an officer of the law? The second reason for not fighting the ticket is that if we should lose, we would be subject to an additional $500 fee on top of the $114 ticket. And that doesn’t even count the time off work I would have to take and everything else. Can we say extortion at it’s most base form? I think we can: ex·tor·tion noun 1. an act or instance of extorting. 2. Law . the crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one’s office or authority. 3. oppressive or illegal exaction, as of excessive price or interest: the extortions of usurers. 4. anything extorted.
So in summary, I am going to have to pay for this ticket, my son will be assessed the points, and I will probably have an insurance hike all because some individual police officer or his department are abusing their privileges to protect and uphold the law. We have no recourse, no avenue to report this issue, and no way to address the problem at its base level. Hmmmm…..kind of reminds me of the federal government right now as well. Go figure!