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Is Your Oregon License Plate behind Your Windshield (on the dashboard)?

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If your answer is yes, you might want to read this case from the Oregon Court of Appeals, filed 10/29/08.

You can also see a judicial exercise of statutory interpretation at work. What does it mean that a registration plate be displayed “on the front * * * of the vehicle”?

And, the next time you complain when the law librarian says, in response to your legal question (ahem, your legal problem), “IT DEPENDS,” you might understand why.

Oregon v. Nguyen (A133428)

“… Defendant appeals a judgment convicting him of misdemeanor driving while suspended. ORS 811.182. Defendant was stopped for failure to display registration plates, ORS 803.540(1), after a police officer observed that defendant’s vehicle lacked a front registration plate.(1)> Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence acquired as a result of the stop on the ground that the officer lacked a reasonable belief that defendant had committed a traffic violation. We review for errors of law, ORS 138.220, and affirm.

The facts are not in dispute. On April 14, 2006, defendant was driving in his older model Jeep Cherokee. Officer Kangas, who was watching traffic from his motorcycle positioned on the shoulder of the road, saw defendant’s Jeep coming toward him and noticed that the Jeep did not have a registration plate on the front bumper. Kangas pursued defendant and stopped him, intending to cite him for failure to display a registration plate on the front of his vehicle as required by ORS 803.540(1)(b). As Kangas approached defendant, Kangas saw a registration plate propped up on the left side of the dashboard, inside the windshield. The edges of the plate had been bent to keep the plate from sliding forward or sideways on the dashboard. Kangas testified that he had been unable to see the registration plate before he stopped defendant and walked up beside the Jeep. Kangas asked for defendant’s driver’s license; defendant handed him an Oregon temporary license, which had expired. Kangas conducted a records check that revealed that defendant’s driving privileges had been suspended. He then cited defendant for misdemeanor driving while suspended.
….
Here, defendant placed his registration plate on the left side of his dashboard, inside the windshield of his vehicle. Although two witnesses testified that they were able to see the plate from varying distances, placement of the registration plate on the dashboard did not comply with ORS 803.540(1)(b), because the plate was not exhibited on the foremost part of the vehicle. Because the officer’s belief that defendant had committed a traffic violation was objectively reasonable, the trial court correctly denied defendant’s motion to suppress….”
(Read full opinion, or media release summary (click on drop down menu to Court of Appeals, and click on October 29, 2008)

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2 responses to “Is Your Oregon License Plate behind Your Windshield (on the dashboard)?”

  1. Armaan says:

    ORS 803.540(1)(b) says “A person commits the offense of failure to display registration plates if … the registration plates assigned to the vehicle or camper are displayed in a manner that violates … the following: … Plates must be displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle if two plates are required.”

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but where exactly is it stated that any vehicle is ‘required’ to have two plates? The closest thing that I can find is ORS 803.525 which says “The Department of Transportation shall issue two registration plates for every vehicle…” but that only says DMV has to issue them, it makes no mention any vehicle being ‘required’ to have them / use them / display them, etc.

  2. Mason says:

    See sub. 1

    803.525¹

    Number of plates issued
    The Department of Transportation shall issue two registration plates for every vehicle that is registered by the department

    except

    as otherwise provided in this section. Upon renewal or when otherwise provided under ORS 803.555 (Replacement), the department may issue stickers in lieu of or in addition to registration plates. The following shall be issued plates as described:

    (1) Only one registration plate shall be issued for a moped, motorcycle, trailer, antique vehicle or vehicle of special interest registered by the department.

    (2) Only one plate shall be issued for a camper that is registered. Stickers may be issued in lieu of a plate. [1983 c.338 §258; 1985 c.668 §12; 1989 c.43 §27; 1991 c.407 §28; 1993 c.741 §119a; 2001 c.25 §1; 2003 c.655 §114]

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