The Facts of the New California Temporary License Plates Law

October 18, 2016

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Los Angeles, or anywhere else in California for that matter, you’ve probably noticed a significant number of cars speeding around without a normal license plate. If you get a traffic ticket in Los Angeles or any part of California you may want to contact the Ticket Clinic. Thanks to a new California law, that will change, but not until 2019.

New California License Plate Law

By “normal license plate” we mean a plate with a series of large numbers and letters used to uniquely identify that vehicle. Instead of a normal license plate, many vehicles in California can be seen driving around with dealer plates featuring nothing more than a car dealer’s name or logo.

There is a strong public interest in making sure cars can be easily identified from a distance. For example, license plates help police track down drivers who cause traffic accidents. Law enforcement also uses this information when filling out speeding tickets and other types of traffic citation. Furthermore, they help public track down Amber Alerts (missing children) and Silver Alerts (missing elderly or developmentally disabled people). Finally, licence plates are used to enforce tolls on paid roads.

So why are so many cars driving around Los Angeles without normal license plates? Because the California Department of Motor Vehicles does not require new vehicles to display a license plate until after the vehicle is registered, and California residents have up to 90 days to register newly purchased cars (a few years ago the window was 6 months). Making matters worse, police have a hard time enforcing this 90 day registration deadline because new cars look like, well, new cars! In other words, a brand new white 2017 BMW 535i that rolled off the lot 89 days ago looks just like one that rolled off the lot 91 days ago, or 180 days ago, or 250 days ago. You get the point. So even though the law requires registration within 90 days of purchase, some drivers take much longer.

California License Plate VS Other States

Until January 2019, every other state requires auto dealers to issue some kind of license plate (temporary or permanent) with a unique identifier and clearly visible expiration date. In contrast, California currently only requires dealers to issue and attach a temporary registration, which is about the size of an index card, on the lower corner of the car’s windshield. Thanks to a new law, that has all changed.

On July 25, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 516 (AB 516) into law. AB 516 requires that, as of 2019, California car dealers must attach a temporary license plate on every vehicle they sell before it leaves the lot. This may explain why you’ve seen fewer cars without license platessince January.

The Proposed Benefits of AB 516

The new law hopes to discourage driving without license plate California, among other benefits. Some remunerations the state hopes to see from the new law are as follows:

  • Less vehicle theft, as the new temporary license plate will tie a vehicle to a specific Report of Sale and therefore, to a particular buyer
  • Better trained dealership personnel, as all new temporary license plates will be generated through a vendor-hosted system on which all dealership staff and DMV representatives will be trained
  • Access to an instant Report of Sale, which the dealer can print out at the end of each transaction for both the dealership’s records and the buyer’s benefit

The ease with which the new system makes it to print temporary license plates means there should never be any reason for a person to drive around with no license plate California.

How Temporary License Plates Will Look

If you’ve driven through other states and spotted a new vehicle, you may have noticed that a brightly colored paper with numbers written in black marker was where the license plate should be. That bright colored piece of paper is more or less a representation of how California’s temporary plates will look. The temporary identifier will be printed on paper and via Fairfax Imaging. The state will issue two sizes: one for trucks, trailers and passenger vehicles and one for motorcycles. These temporary licenses should fit perfectly in a standard-sized license plate frame.

Temporary License Plate Placement

California law requires all registered passenger vehicles to display two license plates: one on the front of the vehicle and one on the back. However, for conservation purposes, AB 516 only requires the owners of new vehicles to display a temporary license plate on the rear of the vehicle. The state recommends vehicle owners secure the paper using all four pre-punched holes, as this can help keep the temporary plate visible and secure.

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Have you received any type of traffic citation in the state of California? The traffic ticket lawyers at The Ticket Clinic help motorists resolve speeding, suspended license and DUI cases. Our traffic court attorneys start at just $99. Call for a free consultation today.