Law enforcement is legally allowed to pull you over if they see that you are violating even the most insignificant of laws, even if that minor law violation is merely a pretext for investigating a hunchthat the driver has done something else more sinister. Because of this, it is not uncommon for a DUI driver to have originally been stopped for something trivial like having a taillight out, having something hanging from the rearview mirror, or, as relevant to this blog post, a license plate violation.
California law requires that you have both a front and rear license plate on your car, and that that license plate be “securely fastened to the vehicle . . .as to prevent the plates from swinging,” “mounted in a position so as to be clearly visible, and so that the characters are upright and display from left to right,and shall be maintained in a condition so as to be clearly legible.” Further, the license plate can only be covered by (1) a security cover—as long as that security cover does not obstruct any portion of the license plate numbering, or the registration stickers—or (2) a car cover on a parked car, used to protect the vehicle from the weather.
Now, speaking of those registration stickers… they need to be attached to the license plate properly, in the correct location: with the “month” sticker on the left, and the “year” sticker on the right. Should you accidently put the stickers on the wrong side of the plate, (I’ll be honest: I’ve done it!) you’ll need to take extra care in remedying the problem as they stickers have been designed to be especially difficult to remove so that thieves cannot steal a person’s valid registration sticker and put it on their own, non-registered vehicle. Should you try to just peel the incorrect sticker off, don’t be surprised if the sticker rips apart, making itself perfectly unusable. Should this happen to you, the easiest thing to do it to just order new stickers from the DMV.
Lastly, starting this year, when a car dealer sells a car, the dealer will be required to give you temporary license plates, and it is required that you keep both of those license plates on the vehicle until the permanent plates arrive. These temporary license plates must include a plate number, what the DMV calls a “report of sale number,” the Vehicle Identification Number, Year, Model and Make of the vehicle, and an expiration date that is 90 days after the date of sale. As of the time of writing this post, it is expected that each of these valid temporary license plates will include security features, helping to thwart theft of the plates.
In today’s world, when we’re all so busy with the things that “really” matter in life, it’s easy to become complacent about the little things that are wrong with our cars, but ignoring these little things is practically inviting a bored police officer to run your plate or pull you over, all in the name of simply “doing his or her job.”
So don’t be funny and put your license plate on upside down.
Cal. Vehicle Code 5201.
As the result of the passage of Assembly Bill 516.
If you lose one or both of the temporary plates, you’ll need to go back to the dealerfor replacements.
Devina strives to make information relevant to the lives of her clients easily accessible.