Unlawful Vehicle Modifications
Americans love their cars. Some love their cars so much that they opt to modify them in different ways. Some vehicle modifications are subtle — like a window tint. Other modifications are drastic and can be immediately heard and/or seen on the road.
Under traffic laws in most states, drivers may be given a traffic ticket for operating a vehicle that has been modified in violation of laws that regulate vehicle specifications and vehicle equipment. Examples of vehicle modifications that may result in a traffic ticket include:
- Addition of non-standard lighting (neon "underglow" lights, under-vehicle lights)
- Alteration or removal of air pollution and emissions control device
- Modification of vehicle ground clearance ("lowered" or "raised" vehicles)
- Removal of mufflers and other sound-control devices
- Window tinting (especially tinting of windshield or driver/front passenger side windows)
What Police Look For
Why does any of this matter? If you have modified your car, it may give an officer a valid excuse to pull you over. Let's face it, no one likes getting pulled over by the police, innocent or guilty. There are a number of modifications that officers look for to determine if they are unlawful.
Most officers are looking for sound and noise modifications, frame and suspension modifications, engine modifications, after-market lighting, and window tinting. Traffic laws vary from state-to-state, but those listed above are the most typical. The easiest way to avoid being contacted by the police is to simply not modify your car. However, if you are cited for an unlawful modification, you may be able to remedy the situation. Read on to learn more.
Penalties for Unlawful Vehicle Modifications
You can receive a mechanical violation traffic ticket for an unlawfully-modified vehicle. In some states, citations for certain unlawful vehicle modifications are considered "fix-it" tickets or "correctable violations." In California, for example, if you are given a "fix-it" ticket by a police officer, "yes" will be checked next to "Correctable Violation." After the problem is fixed (i.e., you remove illegal under-car lights), you must get the signature of an authorized person (i.e., a local law enforcement officer) on the "Certificate of Correction" portion of the ticket.
If you are issued a "fix-it" ticket for an unlawful vehicle modification in your state, read the ticket to determine whether you can mail the proof of correction, rather than taking it to court. If the court accepts your correction, the case will be dismissed. But, if you fail to fix the problem within a short time after you receive a "fix-it" ticket, you will need to pay the fine for the unlawful vehicle modification, and you may be issued another ticket which will go on your record.
Separate Potential Penalties
It's worth noting that even if a vehicle modification is legal, driving with questionable vehicle modifications may result in separate legal charges. For example, if you installed smoked taillights on your car, it might give a police officer reason to pull you over. If you happened to be driving in traffic that was going over the legal speed limit when the officer pulled you over, the police officer would be able to write you a ticket for speeding even if the officer could not legally ticket you for the tint of your taillights.
Having a Traffic Ticket Lawyer on Your Side
If you've been cited for an unlawful vehicle violation, you may want to consider your options. You can always consult an experienced traffic ticket attorney in your jurisdiction to learn if your case is worth fighting. A skilled attorney, familiar with the laws in your area will be able to advise you.