Driving With Forged License Plate Example Case in New York

In People v. Stephens (177 Misc 2d 819, 676 NYS2d 905 [Crim Ct, Kings County 1998]), the complaint alleged that a defendant who operated a motor vehicle with a forged license plate failed to produce proof of registration and insurance on demand. The court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss for facial insufficiency, holding that the allegations gave reasonable cause to believe that he knew the item was forged. The court analyzed the applicable regulatory scheme and took note of the fact that Vehicle and Traffic Law 319 and 401 require proof, on demand, of proper registration and insurance (id. at 824). The court held that because of the State's interest in regulating motor vehicles, the complaint need not explicitly state how and where the defendant came into possession of the forged instrument to establish guilty knowledge for prima facie purposes. Instead, the People may rely on "inferences which flow naturally from defendant's failure to comply with the affirmative duty to possess proper documents when operating a motor vehicle," and that the defendant's inability to present such documents in their proper form constituted circumstantial evidence from which scienter may be inferred (id.).