24 October 2012

Is the noPhoto illegal?

See here how it works:
1. The traffic camera fires its flash to illuminate your car for a picture
2. The noPhoto detects the flash, analyzes it, and sends the proper firing sequence to its own xenon flashes.
3. The noPhoto precisely times and fires the flash at the exact moment needed to overexpose the traffic camera.
4. Since the traffic camera is not expecting the additional light from the noPhoto, all of its automated settings are incorrect and the image is completely overexposed.  Your license plate cannot be seen and you will not get a ticket in the mail.
Is it illegal? They say no:
Is the noPhoto legal? 
Since there is nothing physically covering or obscuring the license plate, the noPhoto does not violate any license plate cover laws.  Quite literally, we are using the same light and the same bulbs that red light and speed cameras do.  The noPhoto does not cover any state names, and there are no laws in existence regulating how much light is cast onto the license plate.
Unless the creators actually examined the laws of all 50 states (and DC), I suspect this is a dubious explanation; especially if they only looked specifically for "license plate cover laws." Here is Maryland's law:
Md. TRANSPORTATION Code Ann. § 21-1112.1: "(a) In general. -- A person may not obscure or modify any vehicle registration plate with intent to avoid identification."
As a reminder, IANAL(Y).

It makes sense to read this as applying to license plate covers (like these), but there is no language in this statute that indicates covers. So it makes sense that it should also apply to any method that obscures the license plate, even if it's not part of a cover. Lastly, the specific intent here, as declared above, is "to avoid identification." The legislature intended the law to prohibit people from trying to hide their plates, by any means (whether a cover or a flash device that didn't exist when the law was written).

I laud the creativity, and hope that people will continue to push the limits. But my reading and understanding of this statute, as it applies in Maryland, is that the noPhoto would be considered in violation.

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