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Old 10-24-08, 03:46 PM   #1
darksiderising
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Hitch rack blocking license plate in CA

Hi all,

My friend was recently pulled over and harassed by a police officer regarding her bicycle hitch rack on the back of her car. He claims that it is illegal to block a license plate with a bicycle rack. Is this correct? We live in California.

Thanks
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Old 10-24-08, 04:26 PM   #2
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I think that law is universal in the USA, likely the world. It doesn't matter what obscures it, it must be visible at all times.
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Old 10-24-08, 04:36 PM   #3
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That sounds right, but what do people do when their pulling a boat, or a big trailer?

I'm serious, I don't know.
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Old 10-24-08, 04:44 PM   #4
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Boats and trailers have license plates, too.
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Old 10-24-08, 04:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by pacificaslim View Post
Boats and trailers have license plates, too.
Do they correspond to the vehicle hauling them, or are they licensing the trailer?
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Old 10-24-08, 05:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darksiderising View Post
Hi all,

My friend was recently pulled over and harassed by a police officer regarding her bicycle hitch rack on the back of her car. He claims that it is illegal to block a license plate with a bicycle rack. Is this correct? We live in California.

Thanks
yeah you can get in trouble
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Old 10-24-08, 05:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Treespeed View Post
Do they correspond to the vehicle hauling them, or are they licensing the trailer?
The trailer is licensed separately... and may be hauled by any other vehicle... thus it does NOT correspond to a particular towing vehicle.
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Old 10-24-08, 05:14 PM   #8
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The trailer is licensed separately... and may be hauled by any other vehicle... thus it does NOT correspond to a particular towing vehicle.
So how does that help if you can't see the vehicle's license?
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Old 10-24-08, 05:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Treespeed View Post
So how does that help if you can't see the vehicle's license?
Good question. Gets back to that issue of "gee, officer what about if someone tows a boat... "

Frankly I think it sounds like some officer just decided to hassle someone....

You can't drive a anything over 6000 lbs on most CA residential streets either... and that often is not enforced either. Funny thing about that, eh?
http://slate.msn.com/id/2104755/
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Old 10-24-08, 06:16 PM   #10
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Tractor/trailer rigs are required to display their year stickers, etc. on the front of the tractor instead of the rear since they're usually towing trailers and the front plate is the most visible. If a vehicle is properly equipped with a front plate then if it's towing and the rear plate isn't immediately visible it's not a problem. The rear plate just can't be blocked if you're not towing anything. For example having one of those bumper mounted trailer hitches is ok, as long as a trailer's hooked up to it. As soon as the trailer is removed the ball must be removed as well if it's blocking the rear plate.
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Old 10-24-08, 07:02 PM   #11
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Oh yeah and recently I've seen some of the vehicles with wheelchairs on hitch mount racks have their license plates relocated to the roof above the rear window (on things like SUVs and vans). Maybe your friend should look for something like that? I couldn't find the exception for towing a trailer mentioned anywhere in the vehicle code. Maybe people towing trailers should relocate their rear plates to a visible location as well just to be safe? And here's the vehicle code section your friend was violating...
Quote:
5201. License plates shall at all times be securely fastened to the
vehicle for which they are issued so as to prevent the plates from
swinging, shall be mounted in a position so as to be clearly visible,
and shall be maintained in a condition so as to be clearly legible.
The rear license plate shall be mounted not less than 12 inches nor
more than 60 inches from the ground, and the front license plate
shall be mounted not more than 60 inches from the ground, except as
follows:
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Old 10-24-08, 11:09 PM   #12
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If I was a lawyer, I would make the claim that the license plate is clearly visible, just not from all angles.
In fact, about half of the numbers are visible at the worst angle (directly behind).The law JeffB502 cited does not specify from what angles and moments it must be visible from. After all, neither plate is probably visible from the left or right side, and is not visible from a sharp angle when they are recessed into the bumper.
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Old 10-24-08, 11:10 PM   #13
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Also, shouldn't the rack manufacturers have to supply a mounting location on their racks for the license plate?
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Old 10-25-08, 11:58 AM   #14
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I see rear license plates blocked by hitch racks and those stupid luggage trays all the time around here, and a law against obscuring your license plate/taillights/brake lights/turn signals makes sense to me. I take my hitch rack off when I'm not using it.

There are countries where the law against blocking license plates and lights is strictly enforced, and anyone who wants to use a hitch rack has to mount a license plate and full set of rear lights on a board in back of the hitch rack. I can definitely understand why this is required, but I'm in no hurry for the police to start enforcing the laws so strictly around here.
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Old 10-25-08, 04:02 PM   #15
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Similar instance in Florida: http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/...ack-on-sr-408/

The options available from the bike rack manufacturers don’t really make it easy to comply with the law. That’s one bike related lesson I don’t mind carrying over from Europe.
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Old 10-26-08, 03:04 PM   #16
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Continuously moving a license plate is not a good idea. The screws go into plastic, not a metal thread. Do it enough and the screws won't hold very well, and you'll risk losing the plate. My rack doesn't block the view of my plate unless the bike is on it.
Of course, if I was doing the speed limit, and the police are not behind me originally, then how did they catch up to me without violating the speed limit, which the law says they must obey?
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