Texas License Plate Law Missing Key Sentence For Enforcement

A one-sentence omission in new Texas license plate law could jeopardize provisions for enforcing regulations on missing and illegitimate plates.

Texas State Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) asked state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) to clarify if a missing line about a $200 fine for driving a car without license plates could make other parts of the law invalid, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The license plate bill was passed by the legislature in May and signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) and takes effect on Jan. 1.

"It was just a very huge, detailed bill that we'd already rewritten three, four, five times," Pickett (D-El Paso) said Tuesday. "This wasn't a first draft. We made so many corrections and changes, we thought we caught everything."

Texas has required vehicles to have two license plates, displayed on the front and back, since 1934. The misdemeanor offense can bring a fine of up to $200, though drivers who quickly correct the problem can pay a $10 fee instead.

Pickett's letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott, written with help from lawyers with the Department of Motor Vehicles, argued that the $200 penalty can be implied by the way the law was written. In addition, Texas law does not require the penalty to be included when the offense is clearly explained, Pickett wrote.

The article reported that Abbott has six months to issue an opinion on the new law. Pickett said it would be tough for enforcement as there is no explicit mention of the fine in the law, but said he believes the fact the law makes such license plate-related problems illegal would continue to let the bill stand.

Typos in legislation have caused issues for state governments elsewhere over the last year. These include a mistake in Hawaii that provided cancer research with one-and-a-half cents from all cigarettes sold in 2006 instead of one-and-a-half cents for each cigarette, a mistake reported to have cost $8 million.

The Texas license plate law problem comes as Georgia lawmakers will be considering legislation next year that would require "In God We Trust" to be placed on state license plates. Currently Georgia drivers can purchase a sticker with the motto to place on their plates.