The City of Portland parking mafia is illegally issuing $80 citations for not having front license plates on your vehicle, citing this law: 16.20.120-R, NO FRONT OR REAR PLATE. The problem is that this law, nor any other law, actually requires you to have a front license plate. Let's dissect 16.20.120-R. The title of this law is “Prohibited Parking or Stopping of a Vehicle”. The law goes on to explain that “it is unlawful to park or stop a vehicle that is required by law to display two registration plates if a plate is not displayed on the front and the rear of the vehicle”. Let's investigate the 2013 Oregon Revised Statutes law for license plates.

What's the law?

First, Volume 17, Chapter 803, Section 525 (803.525); Number of plates issued. This section clearly states that the Department of Transportation will “issue” two registration plates for every vehicle that is registered by the department except as otherwise provided in this section.  Ok, fine, nowhere does it say that registered drivers must display both plates. Second, there is Volume 17, Chapter 803, Section 540 (803.540); Failure to display plates. This section states, and I quote: A person commits the offense of failure to display registration plates if the person operates, on the highways of this state, any vehicle or camper that has been assigned registration plates by this state and the registration plates assigned to the vehicle or camper are displayed in a manner that violates any of the following: (a) The plate must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle, if only one plate is required.

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(b) Plates must be displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle if two plates are required. (c) The plates must be in plain view and so as to be read easily by the public. Once again, not a single mention of two plates being required! It’s interesting, (a) is written to imply a singular item while (b) and (c) are both indicating plural objects. (b) comes the closest but leaves a lot up to interpretation with the use of “if two plates are required." So, are two plates required or not?

What are the options?

As indicated on the back of the ticket, there are three options. First, simply admit guilt and pay the ticket. This is clearly the easiest option. Second, pay the ticket (they call it ‘posting bail’) and submit a written explanation contesting the ticket. Third, post bail and request a hearing. In both cases contesting the violation, you must submit bail prior to anyone listening to your reasons for contesting. This stretches well outside the bounds of the basis for our entire legal system. George Zimmerman was walking the streets a free man after shooting Trayvon Martin, yet we have to pay before we get a trial?

What happened to me?

My day in court was interesting.

I was the only person in a room of about 25 who did not settle their case with the Parking Code Enforcement Officer, and therefore the only person to actually have a hearing with the judge. The judge went back and forth with me for about thirty minutes, I'd done my research and I successfully refuted all the laws he found which he deemed applicable. Finally, he got frustrated. He reduced my fine to $20 and told me to have a nice day. $20, for breaking what law? He never found an applicable law. He didn't tell the Parking Code Enforcement Officers to stop issuing tickets for this. He didn't apologize to me and volunteer to make sure the law gets revised. He just gave me a ticket, wrote me off, and left the room. He's the 1%. The City of Portland is so willing to take money from law abiding citizens, that they are writing tickets for things that are not actually laws and have no legal basis.