The noPhoto is ILLEGAL in Virginia – Don’t Take Legal Advice from Inventors

I recently read about a new gadget that’s designed to beat traffic camera tickets (for red lights and speed). Naturally, I was intrigued.

The product is called the “noPhoto,” and it looks like any old license plate frame. But whenever it detects a camera flash, it fires off it’s own super-bright flashes. The goal is to over-illuminate your license plate, so no camera can take a picture of it.

Pretty neat, right? Here’s their video:

But hold on there. Doesn’t Virginia have laws against altering or obscuring your license plate? Yes, we do.

The inventors of the noPhoto claim:

Since there is nothing physically covering or obscuring the license plate, the noPhoto does not violate any license plate cover laws.

However, it’s not that simple.

Virginia’s license plate statute says:

No colored glass, colored plastic, bracket, holder, mounting, frame, or any other type of covering shall be placed, mounted, or installed on, around, or over any license plate if such glass, plastic, bracket, holder, mounting, frame, or other type of covering in any way alters or obscures (i) the alpha-numeric information…

Let’s look at the law, and how it might apply to the noPhoto.

First, it’s certainly a frame or bracket that is mounted around the license plate. Right?

Second, does it alter or obscure anything on the plate? Yep.

The noPhoto inventors must think that their device is legal because it’s not physically touching the alpha-numeric license plate info. But that’s not what Virginia law requires. It bans any frames that “in any way” alter or obscure the license plate.

I hate to break it to them, but this sort-of device is just asking for trouble at least in Virginia. I haven’t taken the time to research other states, but I’ll bet at least some states have similar laws.

Update – 10/24/2012 at 1:20pm – I’ve received some feedback regarding this article, suggesting that I’m pretending to be a judge and that my analysis is incorrect. All I’m doing here is interpreting the applicable Virginia statute as a judge would, in my opinion. Opinions on these matters can certainly differ, and it’s possible two judges would come down on two different sides of the issue. I personally think most judges would say the noPhoto obscures the plate information within the meaning of the statute.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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