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Ask the County Law Librarian – Are Tinted License Plate Covers Legal in California?

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Q. Are tinted license plate covers legal in California? I have a friend who got a fix-it ticket for having one, but it is different from mine—his is sort of a bubble over the plate, which makes it harder to read, but mine is flat and lightly tinted. Should I be worried?

A. I would be if I were you. According to California Vehicle Code § 5201 (f)(2), which provides that “a covering shall not be used on license plates except as follows:”

The installation of a license plate security cover is not a violation of this subdivision if the device does not obstruct or impair the recognition of the license plate information, including, but not limited to, the issuing state, license plate number, and registration tabs, and the cover is limited to the area directly over the top of the registration tabs. No portion of a license plate security cover shall rest over the license plate number.

Whether the plate cover “obstructs or impairs” recognition of the license information is in the opinion of the officer who stops you for such an offense.

In addition, California Vehicle Code § 5201(g) prohibits any:

[C]asing, shield, frame, border, product, or other device that obstructs or impairs the reading or recognition of a license plate by an electronic device operated by state or local law enforcement, an electronic device operated in connection with a toll road, high-occupancy toll lane, toll bridge, or other toll facility, or a remote emission sensing device . . .

So . . . if you must have a license plate cover, I would explore the non-tinted options.  And, as always, let’s be careful out there!

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian


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