Beware of Obscured License Plates in Virginia

If you have a license plate frame or cover on your vehicle in Virginia, you’re asking to be pulled over. My recommendation: take it off!

Video Transcription

Hello, my name is Andrew Flusche. I’m a Virginia traffic attorney. A lot of people have license plate frames or license plate covers on their vehicles, and I’m here to warn you that you might want to consider removing your frame or cover, or anything that you have around your license plate. Virginia law, in section 46.2-716, says that you have to have your plate mounted in a way where there is nothing around it that alters or obscures any of the information on the plate.

So what does that mean? Well, it’s obviously a very unclear statute; it could be read very broadly by a court. So if you have a frame that covers up part of the state (where it says Virginia for example), or if your frame covers up part of the letters, then a judge could rule that it’s actually illegal under the statute. The same could go for a license plate cover. A lot of people have those plastic covers, I guess to keep the plate clean. Even if it’s clear, if that covers obscures anything on the plate so that it’s hard to read; for example, maybe at night it’s reflecting the light from your license plate light and making it hard to read portions of the plate; then the judge could say that even though it’s clear it actually violates the law.

Well what’s the worry there? It’s just a traffic ticket right? Unfortunately, what can happen is, if you have some kind of cover or frame that’s obscuring your plate then that, in a way, kind of invites the officer to pull you over. It gives them a legal reason to pull you over if it’s obscuring or altering your plate. That, in turn, could lead to a much more serious charge, such as driving on a suspended license, or even more serious, driving under the influence. Let’s say you went out to dinner, had a couple drinks too many but you’re driving home perfectly safe, but the officer is out fishing for a DUI and you have one of these plates or covers, that gives him all the reason he needs to pull you over if it’s obscuring your plate. Now, we can certainly challenge that in court, but if it does obscure the plate in any way, it’s a much harder case for us to make. Honestly, if it obscures the plate, we’re probably going to lose that argument, because the statute does make it clear that you can’t obscure your license plate.

So I would suggest to go out and look at your vehicle. If you have a frame or any kind of cover on it, my recommendation would be to remove it. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. You can have a bumper sticker or something to support your school or get s specialty plate or something like that, but I don’t think a frame or cover is a good idea in Virginia.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Avvo. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.
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