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License plate frames are legal in almost every state, even in New Jersey. But the standard language is that they can’t cover or obscure any part “of any marking imprinted upon” the car’s plate. But unlike almost every other state, New Jersey police are taking that section of the law way too seriously. Like 100,000 tickets a year seriously. But now politicians are complaining about the over-zealous issuance of tickets for the infraction. 

What does the New Jersey license plate say about frames?

Jersey City police car
Jersey City police car in Newark | Getty

You can’t cover even the “New Jersey” or “Garden State” portions of the plate, according to the law You know, those portions of the plate that every license plate issued has imprinted on it. So even bumping into those portions of the plate can get you a ticket. And those tickets on average cost around $100. 

In the previous five years, law enforcement has issued 501,699 summonses, or tickets, for violating the license plate law. “Countless frames cover a small fraction of ‘New Jersey’ on the top of the license plate or the bottom of ‘Garden State,’ but the words can still be easily identified. That is not true if a frame instead covers a single letter or number of the registration marks in the center of a license plate,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote.

Can they change the New Jersey license plate law?

NJ vanity plate
New Jersey vanity plate | Getty

As points out, “If there is an indication of how annoying this infraction is, two legislators from two different parties proposed bills in both houses of the state legislature to relax the current law.”

The two New Jersey lawmakers have written bills that allow partially-obscured portions of the top or bottle of a plate is legal. As long as you can read the words. And, as we said, they are common to every New Jersey plate issued. It will still be illegal to cover larger portions of the plate, especially the identifying numbers and letters. 

One bill is already before the state senate

Newark police
A Newark Police Department car | Getty

Is it Illegal to Obscure Your License Plate?

“Most of these citations were for frames covering a part of the license plate that did not prevent identification of the vehicle,” said State Senator Patrick Diegnan said. “These revised stipulations will allow for a significant decrease in unnecessary fines and reduce the number of New Jersey drivers being pulled over.”

The transportation committee has already approved State Senate Bill S2381. Now it will go before the Senate for a vote. The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities committee will hear the other bill soon. While similar to the Diegnan bill, it applies only to dealer advertising frames. 

“This bill will help prevent thousands of drivers from being pulled over for minor license plate frame violations,” said Assemblyman Ronald Dancer. “New Jersey drivers should not have to spend time and money seeking recourse through the court system. As long as pertinent letters and numbers are recognizable on a plate, a person should be free from unwarranted interactions with police.”