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05/19/2024 02:09 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: August 25, 2022 02:46 PM
From: Senator Scott Martin
To: All Senate members
Subject: Protecting Pennsylvania Drivers from a Recent License Plate Ruling
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation to clarify legislative intent regarding 75 Pa.C.S. § 1332 as it pertains to license plates in the recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decision Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Derrick Ruffin.
The decision issued by the three-judge Superior Court panel would allow for a member of law enforcement to stop a driver if any part of their license plate is obscured, even if the obstruction covers only the paint around the edges or the “visitpa.com” at the bottom of the plate. The consequence of this decision has likely made thousands Pennsylvania drivers in violation of the law overnight.
In fact, when first reading the decision, I happened to be in a parking lot. I looked up and noticed a substantial portion of vehicles with custom frames surrounding their plates, often issued by their car dealers or of their favorite sports team. This decision would now mean that any one of those drivers could be pulled over with probable cause. I do not believe this was the intent of lawmakers, and how can we reasonably expect law enforcement to consistently apply this ruling in their daily activities?
My legislation would clarify that the protections of Section 1332 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code apply only to the important identifiable information displayed on a license plate.
It is the responsibility of the court to call balls and strikes and interpret the meaning of the law. Their ruling is not a reflection of preferred outcomes (surely it is not their intent to criminalize hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania drivers), but rather a call to the legislature to now perform its responsibility and better clarify language in the statute. My legislation will do just that.
Please consider joining me in co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB1357