City Paper is not for tourists
An update to the anti-statehood license plate cover City Desk told you about on Thursday! In the situation of our BMW driver on Capitol Hill who isn’t apparently all that jazzed about the notion of D.C. statehood, a spokeswoman for the city, Kate Stanton, tells us that this particular cover is indeed illegal. It’s technically a license frame.
In an e-mail:
In this case, there is much discussion about whether frames are included in the law. However, in the case of the picture, not only is “Taxation Without Representation” covered, but the state/jurisdiction “Washington, DC” is also covered. Since this is a specific plate identifier, along with the plate number, this frame would still be an illegal covering…
Why is the jurisdiction important? Stanton noted that a state trooper in Ohio, for instance, would be able to read the license tag number, but would have no idea that the car is from the District of Columbia. (Apparently, the iconic D.C. flag does not count!)
Because of the Driver Privacy Protection Act, Stanton was not able to disclose the identity owner of the vehicle in question. She said that the Department of Public Works could be contacted about ticketing the BMW for its license frame transgressions.
Two commenters on Thursday’s post noted that there is a U.S. Supreme Court case on the books that makes the license frame issue quite interesting legally. In the 1977 ruling in Wooley v. Maynard, the high court ruled in favor of a George Maynard, a Jehovah’s Witness, who objected to a New Hampshire law mandating the Granite State’s motto, “Live Free or Die,” be displayed on all non-commercial vehicles. Maynard was fined and jailed for covering up the slogan.
From the Oyez Project’s summary of Wooley v. Maynard:
The Court found that the statute in question effectively required individuals to “use their private property as a ‘mobile billboard’ for the State’s ideological message.” The Court held that the State’s interests in requiring the motto did not outweigh free speech principles under the First Amendment, including “the right of individuals to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster…an idea they find morally objectionable.
D.C. Shadow House Rep. Mike Panetta chimed in on Thursday’s post as well, calling the BMW owner a “douche,” and noting that drivers can choose a D.C. license plate without the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan.