Want To Prevent A Ticket? Are License Plate Covers Legal in California?

Living the Beach Street Life occasionally means wandering inland for work, play or whatever.  The last time we wandered into LA County, the registration sticker was stolen from one of our cars while we were in downtown LA.  Without getting into the politics of LA, I think there is a vicious circle here.

Shortly after losing the registration sticker, the front license plate turned up missing.  Of course for a fee the DVW was more than happy to replace them both.  Oddly for another fee (read fine) the city of West Hollywood was happy to tell us about both.  The nice little pre-printed note on our car from the WeHo parking meter people gave us two weeks to fix the violations and send them some money.

Do you think there was an appointment at our local DMV within two weeks? Nope.  So we mailed in the request thinking that might work.  The day after the fine was due the decal showed up along with a letter requesting more information about our missing license plate.

This sounds almost like a conspiracy doesn’t it?  Two government agencies charging the victim of a crime because as the meter reader put it “If you have this car in this town, you can afford it and somebody has to pay the bills around here.” It was a 2008 Mercedes ML.  Someone damages our car, steals our sticker and plate and we get fined.  Tags are paid and the meter was paid when the reader gave the car a once over and wrote the ticket.

In this day and age, why we have a “sticker” anyway is a little behind the times.  The technology is there to see if our fees are paid and if it is the right car.  They were and it was and we still get a bill, never mind $1.00 for 30 minutes of parking to grab a quick lunch.  If WeHo wants me to spend more money there, so they can keep more people employed, this isn’t the way to do it.

The nice little fine from WeHo lead me on the hunt to find a way to prevent this from happening again.  Several websites incorrectly noted that in California license plate covers of all types are illegal.  Not true, here is the code section verbatim:

(2) 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.

In Texas and Arizona, the cover and license plate frame can’t even cover part of the word Texas or Arizona.  In California, as long as they can see your plates to mail you a red light ticket or scan your plates running down the freeway, they’ll let you have the cover.

We don’t sell the covers, but I recommend you get one and here is a link to a cover on Amazon just to make it easy.  I also recommend getting the tamper resistant screws.  I used a mix of Tamper resistant, phillips and flathead.  That might be the reason we got to keep the back plate and the $60 bling license plate frame.

If LA county would quit giving away the store, maybe the store could make money and have some to spend smarter, instead of fining the few that might be able to afford it every chance they get.  People that have money have it because they don’t spend it foolishly. Poor people think “Well he has the money why won’t he spend it?” instead of asking how the person got the money in the first place.

When I was getting the ticket signed off with the new plate, the officer told me a story of a recent traffic stop he had.  The Lamborghini had the license plates from a Honda Accord on it. Tags paid the whole thing.  The ticket was only $190.  The state wonders why people cheat and there it is staring them in the face.  Pay $1000 per year to register the Lambo, or $100 per year for the Honda and $190 if you get caught with the plates on the Lambo.

When cities and states figure this out, they’ll make more money and less people will cheat.  Until then for you trying to abide by the law, cover your plates.  Ok so much for trying to leave the politics out of it.

Stolen Registration Decal
Site Of The Missing Sticker


  1. I’m wanting to get a license plate cover. It would be good to find one that is legal as I know that there are some that aren’t. I’ll go over a lot of them since I know that there are many to choose from.

  2. Yup, clearly a plug for his business, but we will let this slide since he is right that in California, if you cover the word California or any other part of the plate it can result in a fine. The reality for the BeachStreetNews cars, is that we have clear covers with multiple types of screws. We do this since plate and decal theft is rampant to the point that you would think the legislature endorses the theft.

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