🚗 So long, NJ license plate frame law
🚗 Gov. Phil Murphy signs a bill making license plate frames legal
🚗 Hundreds of thousands of unaware drivers have been ticketed

New Jersey drivers that have license plate frames on their vehicles can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a measure into law that makes it legal to have a license plate frame that covers a tiny portion of the top or bottom of the license plate where the words “New Jersey” and “Garden State” are, as long as the main letters and numbers are clearly visible.

For several years New Jersey legislators had been talking about abolishing the antiquated law that made it illegal, punishable by a $100 ticket, to have any part of any license plate with any lettering covered by the frame, but they finally approved a measure sponsored by state Sen. Pat Diegnan, D-Middlesex, back in March to do just that, and the governor signed the bill on Monday.

It's a relief

Diegnan said it’s a relief that police officers are no longer required to pull people over and issue a summons for such an offense.

Confused young man in the car stopped by policeman
KatarzynaBialasiewicz ThinkStock

“Their job is to enforce the law, so clearly if they saw it and it was obvious, they would pull folks over,” he said.

He noted the law made absolutely no sense whatsoever in today’s world, because many car dealerships across the state have their own personalized license plate frames on their new and used vehicles that cover a sliver of either the top of the plate where the word New Jersey is, or the bottom of the plate where it says Garden State.

The Supreme Court had ruled the law wasn't legal

He also pointed out back in 2021 the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled if the edges of the lettering on a license plate were covered by a plate frame but the plate itself was still legible, that it was not a violation of law.

Why was this law ever enacted?

Diegnan said no one seems to be sure why the law was originally passed, but it probably dates back to when automobiles first because popular and law enforcement was concerned someone committing a robbery and fleeing in a vehicle might try to cover their license plate to help them avoid capture.

NJ's funniest license plates
courtesy of Amanda Stevens

He noted many New Jerseyans probably never had any idea they were breaking the law by having any part of their license plates covered, but now they won’t have to worry about it.

Over the past five years, New Jersey police wrote close to half a million license plate frame tickets.

The new law takes effect June 1.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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