A gadget that foils red light cameras? But is it legal?

Wired and Slate have posted articles this week about “NoPhoto” — a device which looks like a license plate cover but contains a powerful light that activates when a red light camera tries to snap a photo of your plate.  According to Slate, it “senses and responds to the bright flash of a traffic camera with a flash of its own, shrouding your plate number in white light at the moment the camera takes its picture. NoPhoto is designed to be triggered only by red-light cameras, which seems like a key feature ”

The cost is $350, a little more than the cost of one red light camera ticket.

But, is it legal in Illinois?

I say no.

Under the Motor Vehicle Code, any “object” that is “designed to distort a recorded image of any of the characters of a motor vehicle’s registration plate recorded by a” traffic, speed, or red light camera is considered an illegal plate cover and is a traffic offense, pursuant to   625 ILCS 5/12-610.5, which reads in pertinent part:

Chapter 625. Vehicles Act 5. Illinois Vehicle Code

Chapter 12. Equipment of Vehicles

Article VI. Miscellaneous Requirements 5/12-610.5. Registration plate covers§ 12-610.5. Registration plate covers.
(a) In this Section, “registration plate cover” means any tinted, colored, painted, marked, clear, or illuminated object that is designed to:
(1) cover any of the characters of a motor vehicle’s registration plate; or
(2) distort a recorded image of any of the characters of a motor vehicle’s registration plate recorded by an automated traffic law enforcement system as defined in Section 11-208.6 of this Code or an automated speed enforcement system as defined in Section 11-208.8 of this Code, or recorded by an automated traffic control system as defined in Section 15 of the Automated Traffic Control Systems in Highway Construction or Maintenance Zones Act.
(b) It shall be unlawful to operate any motor vehicle that is equipped with registration plate covers.
(c) A person may not sell or offer for sale a registration plate cover.
(d) A person may not advertise for the purpose of promoting the sale of registration plate covers.
(e) A violation of this Section or a similar provision of a local ordinance shall be an offense against laws and ordinances regulating the movement of traffic.

The penalties get much higher if you are caught with one of these devices on the Illinois Tollway, I suppose because they don’t want to lose any tolls to people sneaking through the IPass lane.  Here is the text of the Illinois statute regarding obstruction of registration plates on the Tollway, 605 ILCS 10/27.2:

Chapter 605. Roads and Bridges Act 10. Toll Highway Act 10/27.2. Obstruction of registration plate visibility to electronic image recording.§ 27.2. Obstruction of registration plate visibility to electronic image recording.
(a) A person may not operate on a toll highway any motor vehicle that is equipped with tinted plastic or tinted glass registration plate covers or any covers, coating, wrappings, materials, streaking, distorting, holographic, reflective, or other devices that obstruct the visibility or electronic image recording of the plate. This subsection (a) shall not apply to automatic vehicle identification transponder devices, cards or chips issued by a governmental body or authorized by a governmental body for the purpose of electronic payment of tolls or other authorized payments, the exemption of which shall preempt any local legislation to the contrary.
(b) If a State or local law enforcement officer having jurisdiction observes that a cover or other device or material or substance is obstructing the visibility or electronic image recording of the plate, the officer shall issue a Uniform Traffic Citation and shall confiscate the cover or other device that obstructs the visibility or electronic image recording of the plate. If the State or local law enforcement officer having jurisdiction observes that the plate itself has been physically treated with a substance or material that is obstructing the visibility or electronic image recording of the plate, the officer shall issue a Uniform Traffic Citation and shall confiscate the plate. The Secretary of State shall revoke the registration of any plate that has been found by a court or administrative tribunal to have been physically altered with any chemical or reflective substance or coating that obstructs the visibility or electronic image recording of the plate. A fine of $750 shall be imposed in any instance where a plate cover obstructs the visibility or electronic image recording of the plate. A fine of $1,000 shall be imposed where a plate has been physically altered with any chemical or reflective substance or coating that obstructs the visibility or electronic image recording of the plate.
(c) The Illinois Attorney General may file suit against any individual or entity offering or marketing the sale, including via the Internet, of any product advertised as having the capacity to obstruct the visibility or electronic image recording of a license plate. In addition to injunctive and monetary relief, punitive damages, and attorneys fees, the suit shall also seek a full accounting of the records of all sales to residents of or entities within the State of Illinois.

So my advice is, “Say No to NoPhoto!”

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