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7 Mods Police Always Catch

General September 20, 2021

Motorcyclists spend a lot of time and money into making their bikes look great and perform better. From the ultimate urban warrior, the 2019 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited FLHTK, to the world’s fastest production motorcycle, the Suzuki Carbon Fiber Hayabusa, there always seems to be room for improvement. But sometimes custom modifications or “mods” themselves can get you pulled over by the police. As a former Traffic Judge pro tem, below is my list of aftermarket modifications that cops always catch and might give them that “probable cause” needed to pull you over:

  1. Hidden License Plates– This is by far the #1 modification to get you pulled over by the cops. Tilting your plate under your seat is a dead giveaway that the bike is either not registered, someone plans on riding like recklessly or worse yet someone has a “catch me if you can” street race attitude. As for cruisers, California law now says no more to vertically mounted plates.

  • LED and Neon Lights – We have all seen the tuner street glow that screams “look at me” and the cops will do just that. California law allows LED lights that emit a “diffused, non-glaring light less than 0.05 candela per square inch” next the lights cannot be on the front of the motorcycle, they cannot be colored red

(a restricted color for emergency vehicles) and they cannot be within 12 inches of or interfere with any other light. You can still add white or yellow front headlights or red taillights over 0.05 candela. As such, frame and wheel LED lights are o.k. but they are still obnoxious.

  • Aftermarket HID Headlights – HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlights are not specifically outlawed in California as long as they are white or yellow in color and do not emit a blue light or blue tint and use the existing light source. The issue with improper lighting is that if you get pulled over at night, the police will impound your bike.

  • Obnoxiously Loud Exhaust– Many of my clients and fellow motorcycle riders often times modify or upgrade their stock (OEM) exhaust systems with new full exhaust or “slip ons” to get a strong, aggressive sound. Mods also lessons the airflow from the engine, increases power and it’s lighter all giving better performance and it also improves the bike’s appearance. But before you switch to a slip-on muffler or an entirely new set of pipes it’s important to know the law and the new 2019 changes. In the past, a motorcyclist was simply cited with a “Fix-it Ticket” for a modified or excessively loud exhaust which could be corrected. No More. Effective January 1, 2019, the NEW LAW mandates a traffic ticket for a “modified or loud exhaust or muffler system” with a mandatory fine of up to $1,000.00. No more fix-it tickets. So cut outs, bypasses, straight pipes or exhausts with holes are now strictly illegal plus your neighbors will hate you.

  • Mirror Removal– Nope. California law says every motorcycle shall be equipped with “a mirror” (one) so located as to reflect to the driver the view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle. Cal. Vehicle Code §26709(a). left, right, small, grip mounted- all O.K.

  • Integrated Taillights – The only law on turn signals is they must be “23 cm (9 in.) apart” see Cal. Vehicle Code of Regulations §699. Almost all LED light bars with integrated turn signals are only 6-7 inches wide. As such, ruling would be that flush mounted front turn signals are O.K. and legal however integrated rear tail light with turn signals are technically illegal.  

  • Motorcycle Handlebar Height “Ape Hangers”– According to California law a “person shall not drive a two-wheeled motorcycle that is equipped with handlebars so positioned that the hands of the driver when upon the grips are more than six inches above his or her shoulder height when sitting astride the seat.”  The police usually let this one slide unless it is an obvious violation. So ride tall!

About Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Tom Reinecke:

Since 1987, Tom Reinecke has been a highest rated California Motorcycle Injury Lawyer and has been named the “Best Motorcycle Lawyer” and the Motorcycle “Super Lawyer” in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.  Tom was recently named one of the “Top 100” Personal Injury Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers (2018, 2019). A graduate of UCLA, former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem, and author of California Motorcycle Law, Tom Reinecke has successfully handled thousands of motorcycle accident and injury cases in California and recovered millions of dollars for his for his clients.  

If you, a friend, or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident or have any questions and need answers, visit us at or call me us anytime at (800) 275-8326.

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