Effective Dec. 1, 2009, North Carolina joined the list of states requiring the state’s license plate information to be fully visible. Plates can no longer be partially covered by a license frame. This law does not prohibit license plate frames but requires frames, if used, must provide clear readability of state name and registration stickers.
Vehicle owners can be cited for the offense and, after Nov. 30, 2010, fined $100 for the violation. [https://apps.dot.state.nc.us/pio/releases/details.aspx?r=3104]
Here is an abstract of the new North Carolina law, SESSION LAW 2009-456, HOUSE BILL 67:
AN ACT to prohibit the covering of the State name, year sticker, or month sticker on a State license plate by a LICENSE plate frame and to direct the joint legislative transportation oversight committee and the revenue laws study committee to study the authorization of special registration plates.
[see the NC statute here ]
North Carolina is not the first, and likely is not the strictest in this law. I did a brief survey of other states’ requirements regarding license plate frames and easily obtained this partial listing:
Arizona prohibits covering the state name at the top of license plate
Illinois requires license plates not be obscured by frame 625 ILCS 5/12-610.5
Massachusetts laws state a number plate frame that obstructs any part of the plate is illegal, and you could be fined for having an obstructed plate.Michigan prohibits covering any registration information, per Michigan State Police
New York and New Jersey apparently also have similar legislation, but I did not find specific source for this.
Oregon requires plate frames or holders must not prevent the numbers, letters, or stickers from being readable (See ORS 803.550 for more information).
Texas has had similar legislation since 2003/2007, per Snopes article
The wording of Arizona’s statute, in particular, seems intended for enforcement only for Arizona plates. Some other states’ rules don’t specify what state name must remain unobscured, so their law might easily be applied to out-of-state drivers.
It is highly likely most states have legislation requiring owners to maintain readability of the license, or registration, plate. What use is the license plate if it isn’t clearly readable?
Debbie and I stumbled onto this requirement two days ago (maybe while we were researching truck weighted tags — another story entirely). We took a quick look at our license plates (truck and trailer) and realized the trailer’s plate frame (from Airstream store) covered almost 1/3 of state name “North Carolina” at bottom of license plate.
We easily lengthened the license plate’s holes to allow sliding the frame down almost 3/16 inch. North Carolina’s name is clearly legible, and the stickers at top corners still aren’t obscured. Our license plate frame rides lower on the license plate and still looks great on the tag. I’d rather spend a few minutes on a small fix than a few hours fixing a small ticket.
See You Down The Road,