In August 2021, NJ CAR issued guidance following the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in State v. Darius Carter, which held that, when a license plate frame conceals or obscures a marking on a license plate in a manner where it cannot reasonably be identified or discerned, that driver would be in violation of the law. In the alternative, if a phrase such as “Garden State” is partly covered but is still recognizable, then there would not be a violation of the law.
NJ CAR pointed out that dealers should be aware of language in the opinion that could point the finger at dealers and those who manufacture license plate frames. The Court stated that “law enforcement commonly attacks problems at their source………yet here, rather than take any action against the source of the offending frames, motorists by the thousands are pulled over each year.” NJ CAR opined that the above language could be a subtle direction to state law enforcement or regulatory agencies to start looking at the manufacturers or suppliers of the license plate frames.
The DCA is expected to shortly issue a letter to New Jersey dealerships warning that merchants should exercise caution in selling or advertising license plate frames or identification marker holders that may conceal or obscure more of a license plate or identification marker that the Supreme Court’s decision allows. NJ CAR is not certain of what enforcement action DCA will take, but it is clear from the letter that some sort of crackdown is in the foreseeable future.
NJ CAR Services sells, and always has sold, compliant license plate frames to dealerships. However, dealerships that do business with other vendors must ensure that those frames comply with the law. As the Court noted, “license plate frames abound, and they invariably cover some part of the markings on the plates they surround. Frames supplied by dealerships, booster organizations, non-profit groups, and others often cover the bottom of “Garden State” or the very top of “New Jersey”. Simply driving a car off the dealer’s lot with that type of license plate frame would amount to a violation and give officers a basis to stop the car.”
NJ CAR offers compliant license plate frames and dealerships with non-compliant frames are encouraged to contact NJ CAR Services @ 609-883-5056, x402 to discuss their options.