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Mississippi Lawyer Blog

License Tag Covers - Worth the Possible Stop?

On the way to take my son to daycare this morning I pulled behind a vehicle much nicer than mine when I noticed a small problem. At the next red light, I snapped this picture to share with our readers. License Plate Problem.jpg
As you can see, the driver of this vehicle is a New Orleans Saints fan (I'm gonna guess post-2005 when all the Saints fans came out of the woodwork). He's proudly displaying his loyalty to his NFL team by placing a mighty fine tag cover around his license plate. What he probably does not realize is that he is giving any law enforcement officer probable cause to pull him over.

The Mississippi Code, specifically in 27-19-31, states in relevant part: "Any person who...covers any portion of a license tag with any sticker, decoration, paint, marking, license plate bracket or holder...in such a manner that the characters and any legally affixed decals on the tag cannot be read, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not more than Twenty-five dollars. ($25.00)" The statute goes on to say that it's acceptable for the county name at the bottom of the tag to be partially or completely covered.

Look at that tag again. Can you tell when the tag expires? I think I can, but the answer is completely within the discretion of the person answering the question. I am willing to bet the driver of this vehicle can afford the $25.00 fine and the ridiculously high court costs that get tacked on to each traffic violation, but the fine is hardly the problem. If you are anything like me, you enjoy living your life without governmental interference, even from law abiding law enforcement officers. Displaying my loyalty to a certain team through a tag holder is not worth it to me. Usually we just keep the tag holder on the vehicle from when we purchased the car. Car dealerships love it when we're lazy. We become driving billboards for their dealership. These tag holder often cover parts of the tag in violation of 27-19-31.

If you are arguing with the officer that you think you can see all the portions of your tag that need to be seen, you have already lost. It isn't enough that you could "win your case in court." Do you want to be stopped at all? No. The tag holder gives the officer the reason he/she needs to stop you, temporarily detain you, and "get in your business."

Display your team loyalty, collegiate affiliation (real or imagined), fraternal organization, etc. in some other way that does not cover your license plate. Do not give law enforcement officers the probable cause they need to pull you over.

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