Illegal License Plates

Illegal License Plate covers

An illegal license plate is one that falls outside the normal rules and regulations set by your state's DMV

An illegal license plate is a plate that falls outside the normal rules and regulations set by your state's department of motor vehicles (DMV).

For example, in the United States, each state has its own DMV. In each state, those who wish to drive a car must register it with their local DMV and get a license plate. Those who don't do this are breaking the law and can be fined or even have their driver's licenses revoked.

Some people use these to avoid red light cameras or toll roads

You might have seen these on the road. They look like regular license plates, but they have something that normal plates don't: an image of a camera with a red x through it. Some drivers use these to avoid paying tolls or traffic tickets from red light cameras, but it's important to note that these plates are illegal, and using them could result in you being fined up to $200 for just one plate. Plus, if you're caught using an illegal plate and driving without the proper registration and insurance, you could receive two points against your license and be subject to a suspension of your license for 90 days (or longer).

They often have the appearance of a government vehicle

Custom license plates come in all shapes and sizes, but not every custom tag is legal. The good news for many drivers is that anything two states away from California is fair game. In other words, if you buy a license plate from a different state, it's likely legal in the state where you reside. Custom plates with writing like "expired" are also legal; technically they aren't expired because they aren't issued by the DMV.

The vast majority of illegal license plates have the appearance of a government vehicle's plate. These plates are often the same size as a normal plate but may have a different shape or color scheme than that of standard-issue tags. Plates with lettering such as "police," "sheriff," and "CIA" are all illegal, even if they're just being used to look cool while cruising down Main Street on Saturday night. Any plate that isn't the standard-issue plate is considered illegal.

If it isn't a government car, don't use an illegal license plate.

In most countries, it is illegal to put license plates on a non-government car. If you do this and get caught, you can be fined as much as $100.

It's also dangerous to use government license plates improperly. In the event of an accident, the car owner must pay for damages—and if a person got hurt or killed in the crash, the driver would be at fault. That's why police take these cases so seriously.

Making a license plate unreadable is not legal.  This is what some people do. 

A reflective tape can make a number plate invisible to a camera. You only need reflective tape applied to the license plate. A reflective tape works mainly for roadside photo-radar with cameras using high-intensity flash to tag your plate and, perhaps, speed. 

Are license plate covers legal?

License plate covers are available with or without tint. Some will argue that the mere ability to purchase the cover at the automotive store makes it legal to use. However, this is not necessarily true. California Vehicle Code section 5201(f)(2) states (emphasis added):

Are tinted plate covers legal?

The answer is no." "The Vehicle Code prohibits you from having any form of covering over your license plate, whether it be clear or tinted. It is also illegal to have a license plate frame that could obstruct the month, the year, or the state of the vehicle that issued that plate," he explained.

License Plate Covers State Laws 

License Plate Laws by State
StatePlate ShieldsPlate FramesVisibilityComments
AlabamaYesYesMust be visible
at all times
"Alabama" must be clearly visible at top of plate
AlaskaYesYesMust be visible at all times
ArizonaYesYesMust be clearly
legible and visible
"Arizona" must be clearly visible at top of plate
ArkansasYesYesMust be
clearly legible
Covers that make the license plate difficult to read
or reduces its reflective properties
are prohibited
CaliforniaNOYesMust be
clearly visible
Red light/speed camera license plate covers
are also prohibited
ColoradoClear onlyYesMust be clearly visibleCovers that shield or impair the reading
of a license plate by devices
are also prohibited
ConnecticutYesYesMust be visibleCovers cannot obscure or impair visibility
DelawareClear onlyYesMust be
clearly readable
Red light/speed camera license plate covers, shields, sprays, etc. are also prohibited
District of ColumbiaNOYesclearly and distinctIdentification tags must be clearly legible
FloridaYesYesMust be visible
at all times
Red light/speed camera license plate covers, shields, sprays, etc. are prohibited
GeorgiaClear onlyYesMust be plainly visibleRed light/speed camera license plate covers, shields, sprays, etc. are prohibited
HawaiiYesYesMust be visible
at all times
Plates must be unobscured at all times
IdahoYesYesMust be free of foreign materials
and visible at all times
Plates must be clearly visible and legible
IllinoisNOYesMust be clearly visibleanti red light/speed camera license plate covers, shields, sprays, devices, etc. are prohibited
IndianaYesYesMust be clearly visiblePlates must be free of foreign materials
IowaYesYesPermit full view of numbers and lettersFrames must permit full view of all numbers and letters on registration plate
KansasNOYesMust be clearly legiblelicense plate covers, shields, sprays, etc. are prohibited
KentuckyYesYesMust be clearly visibleFrames and covers must permit
full view of all numbers and letters
on plate
LouisianaYesYesMust be clearly visiblePlates must be free of foreign materials
MaineYesYesMust be clearly visiblePlates, letters and numbers must be clearly visible at all times
MarylandNOYesMust be
clearly visible
No tinted, colored, painted, marked, clear or illuminated object designed to distort the characters on a license plate is allowed. Plate covers may not even be advertised or offered for sale.
MassachusettsNOYesMust be
displayed conspicuously
license plate covers, shields, etc. are prohibited
MichiganYesYesMust be
clearly visible
Plates must be free of foreign materials
MinnesotaNOYesMust be
plainly visible
No clear or colorless material that affects plated visibility or reflectivity is allowed
MississippiYesYesMust be clearly visiblePlates, letters and numbers must not be covered by any object, marking, paint, etc.
MissouriYesYesMust be clearly visibleCovers may not impair reflective qualities of plate
MontanaYesYesMust be obviously visible"Montana" and border outline of state must be clearly visible
NebraskaYesYesMust be visibleAll letters, numbers, etc. on plates must be free from grease dust and other blurring matter
NevadaYesYesReadable from 100 ft.Plates must be clearly legible and free from foreign material
New HampshireYesYesDisplayed conspicuouslyPlates must be clean and not be obscured
New JerseyYesYesDisplayed conspicuouslysale or use of anti red light/speed camera license plate covers, shields, sprays, devices, etc. are prohibited
New MexicoYesYesClearly visiblePlates must be clearly legible and free from foreign material
New YorkNOYesMust be visiblesale or use of anti red light/speed camera license plate covers, shields, substances, etc. are prohibited
North CarolinaYesYesPlainly readable from 100 ft.No clear or colorless material that affects plate visibility or legibility is allowed
North DakotaYesYesClearly visiblePlates must be clearly visible and letters and numbers must not be obscured
OhioYesYesClearly visiblePlates must be not be covered by any material that obstructs visibility
OklahomaNONOMust be
clearly visible
No plate frame, cover or material is allowed
OregonNOYesPlain view
and easily read
Any frame or plate holder that alters the plate or makes the numbers, letters or regtistration stickers difficult to read or unreadable is prohibited
PennsylvaniaNOYesMust be visible
at all times
Red light/speed camera license plate covers, shields, sprays, etc. are prohibited
Puerto RicoYesYesClearly visiblePlates must be not be covered by any material that obstructs visibility
Rhode IslandYesYesClearly visiblePlainly readable from 100 ft.
South CarolinaNoYesMust be visible
at all times
No tinted covers allowed
South DakotaYesYesClearly visiblePlates must be clearly visible and letters and numbers must not be obscured
TennesseeNoYesClearly visibleNo tinted covers allowed and plates must be clearly visible with no foreign materials
TexasYesYesNo reflective matter or blurring of the plate and plates must be free of foreign material and clearly legible
UtahYesYesClearly visiblePlates must be free of foreign material and clearly visible
VermontNoYesPlainly legibleNo tinted covers allowed and plates must be plainly legible at all times
VirginiaYesYesClearly visible
and legible
No colored frame or covers allowed and plates must be clearly visible and legible
WashingtonYesYesMust be visible
at all times
Unlawful to use frames or covers that change, alter or obscure any portion of the plate or make it illegible
West VirginiaYesYesClearly legiblePlates must be free of foreign materials and clearly legible
WisconsinYesYesClearly legiblePlates must be at all times be maintained in a legible condition
WyomingYesYesClearly legiblePlates must be free of foreign materials and clearly legible

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