Local News

N.C. drivers face fines for obscuring license plates

Posted November 30, 2010

— Beginning Wednesday, any vehicle owner whose license plate frame covers up any wording or stickers could face a fine.

The General Assembly passed the law last year to make sure numbers, letters, the state name and the number and month on the registration renewal sticker can be seen.

"It has been a year. We have not issued any citations for this violation up to this point. We've given verbal warnings or written warnings," said Sgt. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for the state Highway Patrol.

Violators can be penalized up to $100, but Gordon said troopers can use discretion to decide whether a plate frame is illegal. The law applies only to vehicles registered in North Carolina.

State Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, said he plans to take the frame off his license plate before Wednesday after a WRAL News crew found the frame obscured the state name on the plate of his BMW, which was parked outside the Legislative Building.

But George Outlaw said he doesn't know why he needs to remove his license plate frame, which he says adds "pizazz" to his pickup.

License plate cover? Drivers could face fine License plate cover? Drivers could face fine

"I don't see where it's actually a problem because it's not covering up the whole state," Outlaw said.

Gordon said many states use the same red, white and blue color scheme that North Carolina uses on their license plates, so it's harder for law enforcement officers to obtain registration information if they can't see the state name.

“A lot of times, if you can’t see the state or the year and the month. Then, what we’ll find a lot of times is people sometimes hide that because either they have a lapse in insurance or their tags are fictitious. So, it becomes an officer safety issue,” he said.

"As you get your tag, as it comes off the production line, put it on the vehicle just as it is," he said.

"I think I'll probably just have to take (the frame) off and make it legal," Outlaw said.


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  • niall Dec 2, 2010

    Zero enhancement to either state services or safety. This is purely a revenue grab. Those responsible should be flogged and turned out of office.

  • jerry1 Dec 1, 2010

    I am all for law enforcement being able to identify with certainty the validity of a North Carolina license plate. However, this new law is radical. My tag frame covers partially the words North Caroina. First in Flight, my stickers, and every other aspect of my license plate is in full view. There is no way my license plate cannot be identified as a valid North Carolina license plate. Why can't I be allowed to exhibit my school pride at the sacrifice of 1/2 of the words North Carolina? Surely law enforcement officers have common sense. Don't they?

  • ProudBlackSingleMother Dec 1, 2010

    This law is for more revenue, that is it.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 1, 2010

    It's not a safety issue.

    It's so that the tag readers on the new NC-540 and NC-147 toll roads can read your tag and send you a bill.

  • Mugu Dec 1, 2010

    I guess everything is an officer safety issue, which is a scapegoat.

    The only reason they want these off cars is so those automatic plate readers mounted on top of the newer police cars can read plates to generate more revenue for tax collection and parking enforcement issues.

    Have you seen those police cars running around with dim red lights on the four corners of the light bar? That is who wants these plate "obscurers" gone.

  • br549znc Dec 1, 2010


  • Iworkforaliving Dec 1, 2010

    at least half of these plate covers are put on by the dealer to promote themselves.

  • Capt Mercury Dec 1, 2010

    This is all certainly about money, money that the NC Turnpike Authority plans to extract from you if you wander into one of their "automated" toll roads. Those computer-controlled cameras can't make out who to send the bill to if it can't read the state on the license plate. I understand that some of the specialty plates currently issued by the NC DMV are going to be recalled for this same reason.

  • Qwerty27807 Nov 30, 2010

    Just another intrusive piece of government revenue-enhancing legislation, sold under the guise of “public safety”.

    Perhaps the police could be given the right to grab the ankles of passing pedestrians and shake them upside down to see if any loose change, er, I mean criminal contraband falls out.

  • UNC81 Nov 30, 2010

    Hey mikeyj, NC State Senators make under $20k a year. In 2006, they made $13,904 a year. And who says it's not a 5-10 year old BMW? They're cheaper than Camrys, without the worry about unintentionally accelerating into a wall at 90mph.