February 2014

Learn what Is happening with motor vehicle & law enforcement agencies across the country.


Region I

D.C. creates tier of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

Immigrants without proper papers will be able to obtain driver’s licenses in the nation’s capital, due to a new bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. The bill creates a tiered system with two types of licenses. One tier represents the new licenses provided for undocumented immigrants, which will not be federally valid but will allow immigrants to drive legally. The other tier is simply the federally valid license that is currently issued to citizens. 

Barring a blockage by Congress, the bill will go into effect on May 1, 2014. Congress blocking the bill is unlikely, as similar laws have passed in states across the country. In total, about 10 states, such as Maryland and Illinois, have begun providing driver’s licenses to immigrants without papers. These programs intend to reduce hit-and-run accidents and make life easier for families with one or zero legal drivers.

Pennsylvania considers body-mounted cameras for officers

A new bill making its way through Pennsylvania’s State Congress could allow police officers to wear cameras mounted on their person. The cameras in question would record incidents that the officers witness and could be a big help as a source of evidence in court. Pennsylvania State Senator Steward Greenleaf told BRCTV News that this evidence could work in the officers’ or suspects’ favor.

Although similar to currently used dashboard cameras, these body-mounted cameras will be more invasive, so protections will be put in place on their operation. For example, officers would not be allowed to use the cameras in residential homes. In addition, the law would require officers to identify themselves as police and let the suspects know they are being recorded.

Region II

Oklahoma law lets officers seize uninsured drivers’ plates

Officers in Oklahoma are now able to seize the license plates of drivers they pull over that are uninsured, thanks to a new law that became effective on Nov. 1, 2013. The law gives officers a choice of either towing the vehicle—which was the former protocol—or seizing the license plate.

Once a motorist’s license plate is seized for failure to comply with the compulsory insurance law, that motorist will be provided 10 days of temporary coverage until he or she complies with the law.

While motorists will be charged a $125 administrative fee if their plates are seized, they will also incur a $250 fine if they fail to comply with the mandatory insurance law. Seized plates will not be returned to drivers until they have met all requirements of the law.

Virginia announces new license plate design

Virginia revealed a new design for the commonwealth’s standard license plates in December 2013. The new design isn’t much different from the former plate, with the main change being the incorporation of the commonwealth’s tourism slogan “Virginia is for lovers” across the bottom.

In addition to the slogan—which features the “v” of “lovers” stylized as a heart—the plates display “Virginia.org,” which is the official tourism website of the commonwealth. The rest of the plate continues to sport the blue and white design of the former plate.

Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell introduced the plate, which represents the first change in Virginia license plate design since plates memorializing the 400th anniversary of Jamestown were released in 2007. The plates will be available to Virginia motorists on March 1, 2014.

Region III

Iowa funds app to address texting while driving

The Iowa Department of Transportation has contracted with Aegis Mobility, a mobile communications company, to produce an app that will block texts to teen drivers while they are driving. The app, called TXTL8R, will restrict phones from receiving or making texts when the phone’s GPS senses that the phone is moving faster than 15 mph.

In addition to blocking texts, the app has other features that help parents ensure their teens are being safe. If the app is disabled, or deleted, it sends a notification to the user’s parents. Even unsafe driving could cause the app to report back to parents, including if the teen stops short or runs a stop sign.

While the app can be used by anyone, Iowa will be subsidizing its use for users between the ages of 14 and 17. The cost of $4 per month will be covered by the state for those years, which means a total of $192 could be spent per user. Iowa predicts that in total the project will cost $480,000 per year.

Illinois police department to tweet DUI offender names

The police department of Riverside, Ill. has decided to tweet the names of DUI offenders from its official Twitter account. The goal of this plan is to send a message to young people about drunk driving.

Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel told the Chicago Tribune that the jurisdiction has seen a recent increase in drunk driving arrests in people under 30. He hopes publicly tweeting the names of drunk driving arrestees will deter some of those young people from drunk driving.

This information has generally been available to reporters, so the Twitter account won’t reveal anything that isn’t already public information. However, as of Dec. 16, 2013, the department has put the plan on temporary hold for unexplained reasons.

Region IV

California woman receives first Google Glass ticket

In December, a California woman received what was likely the first ticket given for driving while distracted by Google Glass. Google Glass is a wearable computer that can display things like text or video in a tiny screen that sits directly in front of the user’s eyes.

The motorist was pulled over under suspicion of speeding, and when the officer approached her vehicle, the officer noticed the glasses-like display was on. The officer proceeded to ticket her under the citation used to ticket drivers that have a video or TV screen in use at the front of the vehicle while driving.

The motorist is fighting the ticket, arguing both that the vehicle code section shouldn’t apply to mobile technology like Google Glass, and also that the computer was not in use when she was driving, but rather it automatically turned on when she shifted her head in the officer’s presence.

Idaho report shows increase in drug crimes, decrease in drunk driving

A recent report released by the Idaho Supreme Court shows an uptick in drug-related crimes, while the number of drunk driving cases decreased.

Comparing the more than 7,500 criminal cases filed in Idaho district courts in 2013 to those filed in 2008 shows a large increase in the number of drug felony and drug misdemeanor cases filed. In all, the report showed a 35 percent increase in drug felonies and a 14 percent increase in drug misdemeanors.

The same comparison shows that the number of drunk driving felonies and misdemeanors decreased considerably. Between 2008 and 2013, felony drunk driving cases decreased by 15 percent, while misdemeanor drunk driving cases decreased by 14 percent.