My son got a $10 fix-it ticket to put his front plate back on, and did so, but one of the two screws came loose and he had to remove it while he went to school. Only one day without it, and the foot patrol around San Francisco State gave him a straight $100 citation with no recourse. It seems the officer has the option of giving the fix-it ticket or the direct citation.
My concern is that the fines are getting exceedingly high, and that the checks and balances via the courts are being taken away. Even if he could go to court, they make it extremely difficult to schedule and get to, and he could spend more in parking alone in SF than the ticket would cost. And since the only excuse accepted is a stolen plate, what is the point anyway, the officer already determined it is not a fix-it ticket, and the court said it will not change that.
I'm all for officers using good judgement and trying to ease the burdens on the courts at the scene, but it seems to be going the other way and becoming a police state. His friend arrived at his car just as the 4-hour time period expired, and the officer would not let him leave, he insisted on giving him the fine for literally 1 minute over the 4-hours. I'm really starting to worry that police think they are being taken advantage of or lied to, and are responding with rediculously poor judgement, and making it harder on all concerned that are trying to abide by the rules.
Re the license plate, you will see a lot of ranting on the web about this. I can see the reason for the red light cameras to need the front plates, but they could snap a shot from the back after it passed as well. One Audi owner noted that he was only sent a rear plate since the car has no provision for a front mounting. The judge will just tell you to get large sheet metal screws and punch holes in your $70,000 Audi or BMW (or Corvette). The car manufacturers need to accomodate this somehow, but until they do, the fines should be light, until you are found and match the car without the plate running the red light, or have that non-reflective paint on your plate...