Riding a customized motorcycle? Thanks to our fearless leaders in Sacramento, California, another bill became law this week that will immediately affect many riders, particularly those of you with a penchant for customizing your motorcycles. SB 1318 was passed last year, amending California Vehicle Code section 5201 as of January 1, 2011. Among other things, the statute governs how license plates must be displayed.
The newly-revised law provides (in relevant part) that “License plates shall . . . be mounted . . . so that the characters are upright and display from left to right . . .” In other words, those of you who have vertically-mounted license plates on your motorcycles are no longer in compliance with the law, and are now in danger of getting ticketed.
The Assembly Notes for the bill called this change “mostly-technical” and “non-controversial.” But I could not find any actual, documented justification or need for the change. I am aware of no problems that have ever arisen due to a plate being mounted vertically. To my knowledge, such a stylistic choice has never caused a motorcycle accident (in Los Angeles, any other part of California, or the rest of the world for that matter) or prevented a LEO from seeing, reading, or running a plate. To me, this just sounds like another piece of anti-biker legislation that the politicians up north quietly made law.
Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into just another nonsense reason for police harassment of our brothers and sisters (especially those of you wearing patches). But you’ve heard me say it before,and you’ll hear me say it again: As I lawyer, I get paid to be paranoid. This new law just gives me one more reason. Read this page for some decent info on what to do (or not do) if you’re stopped by a cop.