Ask LH: Should I Contest My Fine For Number Plate Obstruction?

Dear Lifehacker, I was pulled over this morning for "obstructing my licence plate" on my car with a bike rack. As far as I am concerned I can read my number plate. Is it possible to fight this in court or am I wasting my time? Thanks, Annoyed At The Police

Picture: Paul Stainthorp

Dear AATP,

You see that stick in your hand? You have the wrong end of it.

The laws surrounding number plate visibility are not directly for your benefit. You probably know your number already. However, if you're involved in an accident and speed away (perhaps you're distracted by that stick in your hand), then witnesses and those involved need to be able to clearly see your number plate.

If you have a bike rack in place, many states require you to have an auxiliary number plate displaying the same details (that's the case in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT) or to move your existing number plate and attach it to the rack so nothing is blocking the view of it(which is the requirement in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory). But no matter where you live, simply saying "I reckon it's legible" and leaving it where it is isn't going to cut it, nor can you use a home-made number plate. I'm going to clarify this point after seeing some reader comments: this isn't an area where a judgement call is involved.

So yes, you're wasting your time contesting this in court. Put the stick down, pick it up correctly, and get yourself a legal number plate arrangement.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Suck it up and pay the fine

    Laws are in place for a reason

      Although there are way too many bullshit laws.

        This particular one isn't bullshit though. There's a number of good reasons why the license plate obstruction laws are in place.

        Last edited 15/08/13 9:25 am

          Just providing a counter point to the "Laws are in place for a reason".
          Often the reason is a company wanted them in place.

          I meant to originally say there are too many BS reasons.
          It kind of morphed as I was tryping.

          Last edited 15/08/13 12:21 pm

    Yes, don't you dare question the judge, jury and executioner, sorry, I mean Police, they are infallible, you are obviously wrong. That's why no burden of proof is needed for anything they claim.

      Seriously, if you hang bikes in front of your number plate though, you need to expect to get fined. The number plate, by law and common sense, needs to be 100% visible and not obscured in any way. Police are not infallible but nor would they bother with the paper work if there wasn't cause in this case me thinks.

      In this case, the law is clear; it isn't actually a matter for police discretion. (As such, I probably shouldn't have mentioned them in the post!)

        The page you linked for Victoria clearly states that you only need to move the number plate if it is obscured, and cannot clearly be read from 20 metres away. There is no automatic requirement to re-locate a number plate or get a bike rack specific plate. It's entirely open for interpretation as to if the number plate is obscured or not. At what angle does it become obscured? Is it obscured if only the centre part isn't visible, yet all the letters and numbers on the plate are still readable?

          Nevertheless I would err on the side of caution. There's no point arguing with cops about whether you think it's legible, they'll just fine you anyway and tell you to take it to court.

    In AATP's defence, if they phrased "as far as I am concerned I can read my number plate", it might be a different issue.

      Again, no; in every state, you either need a separate plate or need to move the original. It isn't a judgement call.

        You kinda missed my point...

    I find it funny that in some states, it's not ok to have your number plates blocked by a bike rack but nothing being said about trailers (usually without their own plates) blocking the same number plate.

    Last edited 15/08/13 2:05 pm

      i was under the impression that a trailer either had to be small enough that the cars plate could be seen, have a repeater plate or its own registration on it.

        I was under the impression that trailers had their own plates, from the RTA (now RMS):

        All vehicles registered in NSW must have official number plates mounted and clearly displayed at the front and rear. Motorcycles and trailers only need to have number plates on the rear

        Just one state, but I'm going with it's a rather national thing.

          I know in Qld trailers have to have plates. Hell, even those disability motorised scooters have them. In Victoria though, the smaller trailers don't (the ones you can rent), and I've seen them blocked number plates before.

          Last edited 15/08/13 2:07 pm

      I didn't get into trailer laws here as that's a separate question (but I'd think states that require a separate bike plate would also do so for trailers).

      Trailers don't need number plates in some states?

        Trailers small than a certain size do not require number plates in Victoria. Apparently they're supposed to still show the towing vehicle's number plates but I've seen too many that can't be seen.

    Also reading the provided line, for my state (vic) you do not HAVE to have a spare plate or even relocate your plate, it specifically says if you fit a bike rack AND your plate is obscured, some rack designs may render the plate visible on certain cars, e.g. a high bike rack on a large 4wd with a number plate on the bumper.

      SUDDENLY "As far as I am concerned I can read my number plate" is arguable.

        SUDDENLY "As far as cops are concerned they can't read it" also as arguable. If not more so.

      NSW: IF the rear number plate of your vehicle is obscured by a bike or bike rack, you must fit a special 'auxiliary number-plate', which is a smaller copy of the vehicle number plate.

      Last edited 15/08/13 9:54 am

    You see that stick in your hand? You have the wrong end of it.

    Best thing I've read all morning !

    ADR 61/02

    Para"no part of a vehicle, including its standard equipment, regular production options or ‘Equipment’ must be so located as to obscure any part of the registration plate(s)."

    so... there's an Australian design rule on it, and good luck arguing against them.

    What about these ridiculous new plates from the RTA that are dark text on a black background? - I couldnt read it from 5 metres away in the daylight.
    What happens when they get dirty? Can traffic and toll cameras even read them?

      something like this:

    So how much was the fine?


    Attitude at the time makes a huge difference. I got pulled up recently for the same thing.

    "Do you know your plate is obstructed?"
    "Nope, sorry"
    "What are you going to do about it?"
    "Well I can whip it off with the multitool, and use zip-ties and tape to attach to the bike?"
    "Good idea, have a nice day".

    This is my post. I did not have a bike on the bike rack at the time. So the plate at the rear is reasonably visible. The far left and right letter/number are slightly obscured but a smart person can still read it. The thing that annoys me the most is that I have driven past a dozen cops in highway cars and none of them have ever pulled me over except this guy....

    I can see your number plate reading "H729"

    If that's your number, then you aren't obstructing anything from the photograph angle. I suspect that you might be from some other angle, though. .

    If that's not your whole number (and I suspect it isn't), then you are obstructing the view from the photograph angle. It's probably not a good idea to put that photo up and then wonder about fighting the case, since I think it's a good exhibit for the prosecution...

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