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These trendy custom California license plates are illegal

If you live in California, chances are you’ve discovered a unique, different car. colourful license plates. And no, I’m not talking about popularity classic black plate as well as any other special interest number plates issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. I’m talking about a license plate that looks like the one pictured (I changed the number, BTW), customized to match the car’s color scheme or the owner’s specific style preferences. Anecdotally, they seem to be especially popular on Teslas, and I have to admit they look pretty good. Being able to customize your license plate to match your vehicle is a great idea, especially when your state has one. a lousy standard license plate.

The problem is, they are illegal.

That’s my suspicion, because how can it be legal to make your own license plates, right? However, I contacted California DMVwho passed specific sections of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) that they violated.

Based on Article 4464, “A person must not be displayed on a vehicle whose license plate has been altered from its original markings.” This will include license plate vinyl wrap kits, such as these, that use your DMV-issued license plate.

Indeed, the California Highway Patrol has told us that the number of violations for altered license plates is indeed on the rise. In 2020 and 2021, CHP has issued about 220 citations about the display of license plates being changed from the original symbol (such as when wrapping the license plate). In 2022 alone, that number has grown to more than 990 citations. CHP has noted that these do not include digital license plates or vinyl front license plate wraps that are part of the DMV’s legal pilot program. It noted whether the CHP officers who wrote the citations checked to see if the infringing sign was actually wrapped or a work made from scratch.

The legitimacy of the latter is less obvious, but seems to be resolved by Article 4463. It states that “any person, with intent to harm, damage or defraud, who commits any of the following acts is guilty of a felony … Alters, fake, forgeor forge certificates of ownership, vehicle registrations, certificates, driver’s licenses, license plates, temporary license plate … or change, forge, forge or falsify documents, equipment, or plate with the intention of representing it as issued by the ministry … or allow display or in their possession an empty, incomplete, canceled, suspended, revoked, alter, forge, forge or forge certificates of ownership, vehicle registrations, certificates, driver’s licenses, license plates, temporary license plates, special plate or license.”

The penalty for this behavior is imprisonment of “16 months, or two or three years, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year”. That’s far more serious than the fines for tampering with disability stickers or Toilet Paper. Air (carpool lane) sticker.

There’s certainly a gray area here, especially with regard to “intention to prejudice, damage or defraud”, but these certainly seem to be defined as fake number plates. They are actually poor fakes because they are the wrong color, but they are still fakes.

There’s no shortage of them either, with plenty available on Etsy. Sellers warn you of the possible legal consequences of using their product as something other than a fun piece of jewelry to hang on the wall of a garage or restaurant. your way.

One person writes “*Disclaimer* Check your state laws or wrap your license plates at your own risk” while another specifically creates a custom “copy” license plate. California’s regulator says “Please note that all License Plates sold by sellers are sold as display plates. We cannot be held responsible for any fines or convictions resulting from the use of number plates. for any purpose other than for which they were designed.” That little legal tidbit is right at the bottom of the lengthy product description, but hey, they’ve technically washed their hands on the matter.

So be sure to consult your attorney if you think the above sections don’t actually apply to your custom license plate or at least know you’d be breaking California law — same as you if you choose not to mount the front number plate. license plates like a lot of people do in California.

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