Division of Consumer Affairs Takes Action to Address Sales of License Plate Frames that Result in Drivers Being Pulled Over

January 28, 2022

NEWARK – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced today that the Division of Consumer Affairs is taking action to address the sale of license plate frames and holders that violate New Jersey law and can result in drivers being pulled over.

In a letter to New Jersey motor vehicle dealers, the Division is putting merchants on notice that state law requires all markings on a license plate to be legible or identifiable. According to a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision, a driver is in violation of the law if their license plate frame or holder conceals or obscures a marking on the plate – like the words “Garden State” or “New Jersey” – so that the marking cannot be reasonably identified.

The letter notes that merchants may be held accountable if they sell or advertise unlawful license plate frames or holders (or vehicles with such frames or holders) without adequately informing consumers that they may violate state law if they use the frame or holder.

“It should go without saying that drivers buying cars in New Jersey should not be sold products that violate state laws,” said Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck.  “With today’s common sense action, we are addressing unlawful license plate frames and holders at their source. By promoting compliance among motor vehicle dealers and other merchants, we hope to reduce the number of drivers who are violating the law unintentionally and getting pulled over as a result.”

The Division is issuing this letter to ensure merchants are aware that selling vehicles with—or advertising—license plate frames or identification marker holders that may conceal or obscure a marking on the license plate in a way that the marking cannot reasonably be identified or discerned may cause them to violate the Consumer Fraud Act. Specifically, businesses offering such frames or holders in New Jersey have a duty to inform consumers that driving with them may cause the consumer to violate New Jersey law.

Similarly, drivers should also be aware they may be ticketed for an obstructed plate violation, even if they didn’t put the holder or frame on their vehicle. Drivers are subject to a fine not exceeding $100 for the first violation or $200 for a subsequent violation, and may be subject to a term of imprisonment in the event of a default.

“Many license plate frames comply with the law, but both merchants and drivers should know exactly what the law prohibits,” said Sean P. Neafsey, Acting Director of the Division. “The purpose of the letter is to provide information to dealers and also to prompt consumers to check their vehicles and avoid potential violations by removing frames that obstruct the marking on their license plates.”

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.