Sir, these plates have been expired for 10 years...
March 9, 2011 11:09 AM   Subscribe

CA-DMV: New car! The dealer says due to backlogs, it could take up to 4 months for DMV to issue plates. I have a set of out-of-state plates that would look awesome in the meantime. I have a gut feeling this wouldn't fly, but I'm secretly hoping someone will tell me that this would be okay to do. The official DMV registration papers are still taped to the windshield.

Back when Illinois was re-doing their license plates in the early 2000s, I had ordered a set of personalized plates (with a witty saying on them that's valid again for the new car). They mailed a set of the old block letter plates and the new script plates simultaneously. I never even put the old plates on the car, nor did any registration stickers get affixed. The old plates are completely invalid.

The paper plates with the dealer's name look stupid, and they don't need any more free advertising. The dealership said to keep the paper plates there so that I wouldn't be hassled by cops for having no plates at all.

The way I want to justify this in my head is that the papers in the windshield are my official California registration, and that until that expires or the new plates arrive, any other plates are just decoration, especially since the IL plates are invalid. Does this make sense, or am I going to get in trouble for having expired out-of-state plates?
posted by hwyengr to Law & Government (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
really bad idea. invalid plates read by a police camera or manually interred will come back completely bogus and cast major doubt on any 'decorative' statement you make when confronted with illegal plates. you would be setting yourself up for a world of headaches...
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2011

I am not sure about trouble, but if the plates are expired, you could have a very uncomfortable sit in your car whilst the cop who pulled you over tries to sort this out.

I would not do this.
posted by Danf at 11:16 AM on March 9, 2011

It makes no sense, and you are probably going to get in trouble for having expired out-of-state plates.

I can't speak for California, but in New Jersey, the police would not be amused at your antics.
posted by crankylex at 11:18 AM on March 9, 2011

Don't put invalid plates on your car. Police officers spend a lot of their time running tags, if the tags are invalid they will know that. The best possible outcome is being hassled and written a ticket. There's no reason to risk that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2011

Does this make sense, or am I going to get in trouble for having expired out-of-state plates?

The second one.
posted by nickmark at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2011

I don't know if this is a serious question, but putting the wrong plates on your car falls under the rubric of "monumentally bad idea."
posted by dfriedman at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I understand you correctly, you have a perfectly valid set of temporary tags issued by your dealer, but you're proposing to not use them, and instead drive around with expired out of state tags because they look nicer on the car?

Honestly, I'm having a hard time not running afoul of the below-cited "Wisecracks don't help people find answers" standard for AskMe.

No. Don't do that.
posted by Naberius at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

No, California does not issue temporary plates. You get your vehicle registration affixed to the windshield. That would have remained.
posted by hwyengr at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2011

If your dealer put some piece of paper in the actual license frame with his name on it, separate from your temporary tags you have taped to the window inside your vehicle, I think you are safe tossing that away. When an officer sees the license frame is empty, he's going to look for those paper tags in your window, and if those aren't expired, no issue.

Putting expired plates on your vehicle that were for a completely different vehicle is a very bad idea. "I liked the way they looked" is not going to cut it as an excuse for what the officer will assume was an attempt to hide your true identity and/or the cars provenance.
posted by nomisxid at 11:24 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Even though you might only encounter good-humored cops who will understand what you're trying to do (unlikely), the traffic cameras will be a lot less sympathetic.
posted by schmod at 11:25 AM on March 9, 2011

Backlog on plates? That sounds odd, and googling brings up informatoin about driver's license card (not plate) backlogs, due to a re-design and anti-counterfeiting measures.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2011

That is a really, really bad idea. While it sounds innocent enough, you could be charged with a felony resulting in 16 months to three years state prison for falsification of registration. (See, e.g., Cal. Veh. Code Section 4463.) While you don't have the intent to violate the statute, I'm not sure any cop will believe you, and even if you win, you lose, because the cost to defend such a case could easily cost $5,000 or more.

Just display the stickers you're given. If you want to customize, why not get custom plates? Other than that, make sure that you display both plates issued by the DMV. (CVC 5200.)
posted by Hylas at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

The pieces of paper that the CA DMV sent you are your temp tags, they are the ones taped to the inside of your windshield. You may take off and discard the dealer advertising in the license plate area at any time.

The plates do take a while to arrive, doubly so if they are personalized or on special plate designs. Leave your out of state plates off the car, it just causes confusion and possible problems. If you really must display the old plates, wait until your new CA plates are installed (and remember, there's two of them in the envelope, they stick together so tightly that a common newbie mistake is to not realize there's two and to install both in the back) and prop up your old state plate in the back window. As long as you're not blocking the view out and not driving like an ass, you're not going to get pulled over for such a minor thing, though you might get written up for it if pulled over for some larger infraction and the cop feels like being a jerk too.
posted by jamaro at 11:43 AM on March 9, 2011

Get caught in California with those Illinois plates on your California-registered vehicle and you'll be damn lucky if your car isn' t impounded on the spot.

Don't do it.
posted by de void at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2011

If you really, really, really wanted to do something like this, you'd probably be safer making your own OBVIOUSLY-NOT-A-LICENSE-PLATE bits of art and putting them in the holders. Though anything with letters or numbers would probably be a really bad idea.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:13 PM on March 9, 2011

Cops love to pull people over for out of state plates in CA. Remember, the state needs the money!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:23 PM on March 9, 2011

A data point for you. I just bought a new car in CA at the end of January and the plates arrived at my home 4 weeks later. I remove the dealer's license plate frame and paper advertising the minute I arrive home from the lot. The police know how to spot a new car without the advertisement.
posted by Edward L at 12:35 PM on March 9, 2011

Throw away the dealer's paper plate-advertisement thingy. Throw away the license plate frames the dealer gave you. You don't need either of those and despite what the dealer said the cops aren't going to hassle you, because they'll see the registration paperwork in your window.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:29 PM on March 9, 2011

The license plate is not a fashion accessory. Driving around with invalid plates is the kind of thing that car thieves do, so at best you're wasting police time by making them think you're a car thief, and at worst you're setting yourself up for a large fine.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2011

Wondering if the OP's from one of those states which don't require a front license plate? It's been my experience that folks from those states have notions about plates others find a little peculiar.

A friend just applied for her first CA driver's license and was also told she'd have to wait four months. How do you think Officer Friendly would respond if my friend tried to use another friend's license for identification, because it "looked awesome"?
posted by Rash at 2:20 PM on March 9, 2011

to use another friend's license for identification, because it "looked awesome"

Do you think that's an analogous situation? The legal registration was postulated to have remained affixed to the vehicle. If they ran the old plates, they would show up as expired in my name at my former address. I would not be trying to pass my identity off as another's.

Regardless, my initial suspicion that this was a poor idea has been vociferously confirmed. Please to note that the "resolved" tag has been added.
posted by hwyengr at 2:50 PM on March 9, 2011

Okay, sorry, not really analogous. Also feel free to ditch any and all dealer advertising, it's completely natural for owners of brand new cars to be driving around without any license plates at all, much to the bafflement of visitors from other states.
posted by Rash at 4:21 PM on March 9, 2011

I'm fairly certain the cops are aware of the DMV backlog and understand the lack of a legit plate on your car.

Keep the new reg. on the front window and take off the free dealer advertising paper plate if you want. (I never had understood why people give car dealerships free advertising via license plate frames. I figure I gave them enough money with the purchase of a car. They can pay for their advertising.)

Bottom line, I sure wouldn't put an out-of-state plate on the car that it's not registered to.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 7:56 PM on March 9, 2011

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