Flipping Out

Lawmakers move to ban license plate flippers

Flipping Out
Courtesy of Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

License plate numbers are recorded in any number of circumstances on a "daily basis," Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, noted during a committee hearing Wednesday. From border crossings to airports, toll booths to bank buildings, vehicle plates are monitored – and the ability to check and to confirm plate numbers is a routine part of law enforcement.

And that is why the state needs to outlaw the so-called license plate "flipper," a device that allows a driver to switch between two different license plates in less than two seconds, offering criminals a perfect get-away: "One-point-two seconds, flip over and they're gone," Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Steven Tays told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "There is no legitimate use for this item." (Perhaps, but Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the committee chair, quipped that he might not mind having one, to change out his state official plates.)

The bill, Senate Bill 1757, by Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, would criminalize possession of a flipper, making it a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail; distributing or selling a flipper would become a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

The measure passed out of committee 4-0.

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