Drivers may be fined if license plate trim covers part of Fla. plate

Law enforcement may charge more than $100 for violators

MIAMI – There is a warning for South Florida drivers about a law that makes many vehicles on the road illegal. If you cruise any parking lot in South Florida you'll see them, or just look around when you're driving down the road.

You'll notice car, after car, after car is in clear violation and many motorists aren't even to blame. We're talking about the frame that holds your license plate.

They come in all different styles, but sports teams and car dealerships seem to be the most popular. They're readily available in auto parts stores and you can find hundreds of them for sale online but nowhere will you find a warning that it's illegal to put them on your car.

They're illegal because most of the plastic trims cover a portion of the plate.

Florida Statute 320.061 states, "A person may not apply or attach a substance, coating, covering or other material onto or around any license plate which interferes with any feature or detail on the license plate."

"You can't put anything on your tag that covers up any portion of the license plate. Whether it be the wording, the State of Florida, the county or anything like that. It has to be clearly visible", said Sgt. Mark Wysocky, of the Florida Highway Patrol. "Even the clear ones, as they get older, they may distort the vision of the tag."

It's a law that's rarely enforced. Last year troopers in Broward only issued 22 citations for partially covered plates; 59 tickets for that offense were written in Miami-Dade County. Statewide, all police agencies combined wrote a little more than 2,200 tickets.

"People may be stopped for it and maybe issued warnings or a corrective notice to let them know that it is against the law and to take it off the vehicle," Wysocky said.

If you get caught with one of the prohibited plate trims, you could face a fine of roughly $115 but no points on your license. Motorists caught with one of those license plate covers that actually obscure the number to avoid red-light cameras face a moving violation. That comes with a $165 fine and points on your drivers license.

A look at Florida Statute 320.061 in its entirety:

"320.061 Unlawful to alter motor vehicle registration certificates, license plates, temporary license plates, mobile home stickers, or validation stickers or to obscure license plates; penalty. A person may not alter the original appearance of a vehicle registration certificate, license plate, temporary license plate, mobile home sticker, or validation sticker issued for and assigned to a motor vehicle or mobile home, whether by mutilation, alteration, defacement, or change of color or in any other manner. A person may not apply or attach a substance, reflective matter, illuminated device, spray, coating, covering, or other material onto or around any license plate which interferes with the legibility, angular visibility, or detectability of any feature or detail on the license plate or interferes with the ability to record any feature or detail on the license plate. A person who violates this section commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318."