Provided by CPOA Legal Counsel, Paul R. Coble and James R. Touchstone, Jones & Mayer
On April 22, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-54-20 (“the Order”) in which are addressed the suspension for sixty (60) days the period within which to perform certain duties. Among these, at paragraphs 1 through 7, are time limits related to registration of vehicles, the most important of which are paragraphs 3 and 5 for purposes of this Alert.
Paragraph 5 of the Order provides that:
The provisions of Vehicle Code sections 4000(a)(1) and 5204(a) pertaining to the registration and registration display requirements for vehicles operated upon a highway are hereby suspended until June 30, 2020. This suspension is applicable to registrations expired on or after March 4, 2020 and before June 30, 2020. Additionally, until June 30, 2020, vehicles with registration expiring between September 4, 2019, and January 1, 2020, are exempt from the associated storage authority outlined in Vehicle Code section 22651(o)(1)(a).
Reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop based on an officer’s observation of expired registration tabs would not, under this Order, exist for tags which expired “on or after March 4, 2020 and before June 30, 2020.” See Pa. v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 109 (1977) [noting that expired registration permitted officers to effect traffic stop]; Whren v. United States, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 1776 (1996) [violation of a minor traffic infraction justified vehicle stop by police, even if that stop was pretextual, because police have authority to issue citations for minor traffic infractions].
Furthermore, “. . . until June 30, 2020, vehicles with registration expiring between September 4, 2019, and January 1, 2020, are exempt from the storage pursuant to Vehicle Code section 22651(o)(1)(a).”
These suspensions of enforcement expire on June 30, 2020. Enforcement authority remains unchanged where the registration or license plate tags expired before March 3, 2020.
Of perhaps lesser importance for line personnel, paragraph 3 of the Order suspends enforcement for an expired permit for the temporary operation of a vehicle. This pertains to expirations occurring after March 4, 2020 or that will occur within 60 days of the April 22, 2020 issuance of the Order.
Similarly, the period for the registration in California for a vehicle last registered in another state is suspended for 60 days from April 22, 2020.
HOW THIS AFFECTS YOUR AGENCY
These temporary restrictions were put in place in recognition that in many instances updating vehicle registrations has been difficult or, at times, impossible during the COVID-19 emergency.
The impact of this Order on field enforcement is simply to caution officers to take a closer look at their justification for an enforcement stop, and to know that for the period from now until late June these relatively minor violations covered in the Order are not enforceable, if indeed they were being enforced at all under current policing priorities. As such, these violations would not provide reasonable suspicion permitting a traffic stop of a vehicle for a registration violation if that violation is unenforceable pursuant to the parameters set forth in the Order.
As always, if you wish to discuss this matter in greater detail, please feel free to contact Paul Coble at (916) 771-0635 or James Touchstone at (714) 446–1400 or via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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