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Is It Legal to Install a License Plate Wrap in California?

A wall of license plates with different colors and designs.

License plate customization is a popular way to further customize your car to tailor your overall tastes and style. However, with new cars featuring a sleek and futuristic design to the latest models, many car enthusiasts are opting to utilize a vinyl license plate wrap to maintain the aesthetic integrity and shape of the car. 

What Is A License Plate Wrap?

A license plate wrap is a popular alternative to a traditional license plate that is made from a scannable reflective vinyl. A vinyl license plate wrap is a semi-permanent option for your car that can be easily installed and taken off without damaging the car. These vinyl plates perfectly replicate the metallic look of a traditional license plate and unlike metal plates, they cannot fall off or be unscrewed and stolen from your vehicle. 

Is A License Plate Wrap Legal in California?

California is the first state to legalize vinyl license plate wraps for vehicles and they currently serve as an alternative option to the traditional license plate. The legalization was passed in 2022 through Assembly Bill 984 and it was passed as a means to lower the potential theft of license plates and registration stickers.

Can You Use a License Plate Wrap in Other States?

The legality of using a license plate wrap will vary from state-to-state. However, generally speaking, as long as the license plate wrap is clearly visible and there is no obstruction of the plates numbers, characters, or the registration sticker, it should be fine to use. So if you are moving to another state, you can check with the state’s local DMV if a license plate wrap is accepted.

Is It Illegal to Change the Color of Your License Plate Wrap in California?

Yes it is illegal to change the color of your license plate, according to California’s Vehicle Code 4464, a vehicle owner cannot alter the original markings of an issued license plate whether it is a traditional plate or a plate wrap. The only way to change the color and/or design of your license plate is unless you request one of the preapproved designs from the DMV and fill out the proper paperwork for it.

If you alter the color of your license plate illegally, an officer may pull you over for this infraction and issue you a fix-it ticket to correct it. If the fix-it ticket is not paid and resolved by the driver within 20 days, then according to California Vehicle Code Section 40310, the fine of the fix-it ticket is subject to a 50% upcharge. So if you are looking to further customize your license plate, it is important that you take all of the necessary steps to do so. 

How Much Is the Ticket For Not Having a License Plate In California?

Whether you are using a traditional license plate or a vinyl wrap version, not having a license plate in general will result in fines and further legal punishment depending on the nature of your situation. According to California Vehicle Code 5200, any failure to display license plates onto your vehicle will result in a $197 fine plus additional court costs. Any failure to pay these will result in the court suspending or taking away your license.  

What Should I Do If I Receive a Ticket For Not Having a License Plate?

If you received a ticket for not having a license plate on your car, it is important that you install them quickly and take the necessary steps to pay for the ticket and the associated fines before it leads to serious legal trouble. If you have not received your license plates for whatever reason, then go to your local DMV to replace them

However, if you are subjected to an unlawful traffic stop and would like to seek legal representation of the matter, contact us today by calling (213) 927-3700 or filling our contact form to schedule a free consultation with our compassionate and talented legal team.

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