As a prosecutor and defense attorney in New Jersey municipal courts, I rarely get through a court session without at least one defendant expressing surprise over being ticketed for his or her license plate holder.
We've all seen them (click here for an example), most commonly after we've bought or leased a vehicle from a dealership. What your car dealership won't tell you is that this lightweight, seemingly unoffensive piece of plastic could cost you up to $200.00 (or much more as I'll explain below).
The applicable portion of N.J.S. 39:3-33 isn't ambiguous:
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle which has a license plate frame or identification marker holder that conceals or otherwise obscures any part of any marking imprinted upon the vehicle's registration plate or any part of any insert which the director, as hereinafter provided, issues to be inserted in and attached to that registration plate or marker.”
“They must be clean and visible at all times. Even though the rear plate is reflectorized, it must be illuminated to make it visible from 50 feet away at night. If your license plate holders obscure or conceal any lettering on the license plate, you are subject to a fine.”
Keep in mind… the license plate cover may only cover up part of the “New Jersey” or “Garden State” lettering, but there's a decent good chance you'll be ticketed all the same.
Fines for a first offense could reach $100.00; the maximum for a second or subsequent offense is $200.00.
Consequences for violations of 39:33-3 could also easily extend well beyond a $0-$200 fine for incidental violations. For example, a police officer could pull you over when he or she sees the holder on the rear of your vehicle and then, during the traffic stop, notice the scent of alcohol emanating from your vehicle (DWI?), observe an open beer can on the back seat (open container?) or, more commonly, catch you driving without proper credentials like your license, proof of insurance or car registration (which could cost you hundreds of extra dollars per ticket).
The best practice is almost always avoidance. You can ask the dealership to remove the plate holder upon purchasing your vehicle or, as soon as you get home, remove it yourself.
Due to the In re Clark decision, I personally cannot represent any criminal or traffic court defendants in Atlantic County or Camden County. My practice is limited to defending clients accused of crimes and traffic offenses outside of Atlantic County and Camden County.
However, our firm's other attorneys continue to represent those charged with crimes and traffic offenses throughout New Jersey.
Help is waiting.
If you or a loved one needs strong representation in a municipal court in New Jersey, please contact the defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. We are here to defend the charges against you. Contact us now for your confidential and free initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350.