Vehicle Code 5200 VC - Display of License Plates

Vehicle Code 5200 is the California statute that states:

  1. if the DMV issues a driver two license plates, he must put one on the front of the vehicle and one on the rear, and
  2. if the DMV issues a motorist just one plate, he must put it on the rear of the car

Per this statute:

“(a) When two license plates are issued by the department for use upon a vehicle, they shall be attached to the vehicle for which they were issued, one in the front and the other in the rear.

(b) When only one license plate is issued for use upon a vehicle, it shall be attached to the rear thereof, unless the license plate is issued for use upon a truck tractor, in which case the license plate shall be displayed in accordance with Section 4850.5.”

Examples of illegal acts under VC 5200 include:

  • Marcos gets two plates from the DMV and only puts one on the front of his car.
  • Tina receives a license plate and throws it out, never putting it on her vehicle.
  • the DMV issues Kendra one license plate and she puts it on the front of her truck.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of illegally displaying a license plate. These include showing that:

  • the police made a mistake,
  • an emergency occurred, and
  • there was no probable cause to stop or arrest the driver.

Penalties

A violation of VC 5200 is charged as an infraction (as opposed to a misdemeanor or felony). The offense is punishable by a fine of $197.00.

Note that a violation does not result in any points being assessed to a driver's DMV record.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

california license plate
California License Plate

1. What is the legal way for a driver to display license plates?

Vehicle Code 5200 is the California statute that governs the display of license plates.

Per this statute:

  1. if the DMV issues a driver two license plates, he must put one on the front of the vehicle and one on the rear,
  2. if the DMV issues a motorist just one plate, he must put it on the rear of the car.1

Note that a violation of this statute gives police officers a legitimate basis for a traffic stop.2

2. Legal Defenses

A person can try to challenge a VC 5200 accusation by raising a legal defense. A legal defense may work to reduce or dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses to Vehicle Code 5200 charges include:

  1. police made a mistake;
  2. emergency; and/or,
  3. no probable cause.

2.1. Police made a mistake

Police can and do make mistakes. If a defendant was given a citation for not displaying a license plate correctly, and it was given by mistake, this is a perfectly valid defense for any VC 5200 charge.

2.2. Emergency

The facts of a case might show that while a driver was issued a license plate, an emergency prevented him from attaching it to his vehicle. This would be an acceptable defense to any VC 5200 accusation. But note, the emergency would have to come within a short amount of time after the DMV issued the plate.

2.3. No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect of a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested for violating VC 5200, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

woman receiving a traffic ticket
A violation of this law can result in a fine

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of VC 5200 is charged as an infraction. The offense is punishable by a fine of $197.00.3

Note that a violation does not result in any points being assessed to a driver's DMV record.

4. Related offenses

There are three laws related to not properly displaying a license plate. These are:

  1. illegal use of disabled parking placards – VC 4461
  2. forging car registration stickers – VC 4463, and
  3. window tinting – VC 26708.

4.1. Illegal use of disabled parking placards – VC 4461

Vehicle Code 4461 is California's law against misusing a disability parking placard or license plate. This offense is also known as "handicapped parking fraud.”

VC 4461 prohibits misuse of a disability parking placard or license by:

  1. lending it to someone else or knowingly allowing someone else to use it4
  2. displaying a disabled placard or plates that
  • have been canceled or revoked, or
  • were issued to someone else,5 or
  • a person parking in a designated disabled parking space if he is not disabled.6

Misuse of a disabled parking placard is a California “wobblette” offense. This means it can be punished as either:

  • a non-criminal infraction with a civil fine of between $250 and $1,000, or
  • a California misdemeanor crime.

If the latter, the misdemeanor can be punished by:

  • up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • a criminal fine of between $250 and $1,000.7

4.2. Forging or falsification of car registration stickers – VC 4463

Vehicle Code 4463 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to forge or falsify car registration stickers.8

Vehicle registration fraud under Vehicle Code 4463 is what is known as a California “wobbler.” This means it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.9

Either charge can lead to:

  • imprisonment, and/or,
  • a substantial fine.10

4.3. Window tinting – VC 26708

Vehicle Code 26708 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to engage in “window tinting,” (e.g., putting an object directly in the windshield of a car).11

A VC 26708 violation is charged as an infraction in California and a person must, resultingly, pay a fine of $197.00.

Were you accused of illegally displaying your license plate in California? Call us for help…

california traffic ticket attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Vehicle Code 5200 VC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 5200 VC. This code section states: “(a) When two license plates are issued by the department for use upon a vehicle, they shall be attached to the vehicle for which they were issued, one in the front and the other in the rear.

    (b) When only one license plate is issued for use upon a vehicle, it shall be attached to the rear thereof, unless the license plate is issued for use upon a truck tractor, in which case the license plate shall be displayed in accordance with Section 4850.5.”

  2. People v. Saunders (2006), 38 Cal. 4th 1129.

  3. See DMV.org.

  4. California Vehicle Code 4461b VC.

  5. California Vehicle Code 4461c VC.

  6. California Vehicle Code 4461d VC.

  7. California Vehicle Code 4461 VC.

  8. California Vehicle Code 4463 VC.

  9. See same.

  10. See same.

  11. California Vehicle Code 26708 VC.

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