How Much Is a Ticket for No License Plate in California?

Jason Markey

You’re cruising down the highway on a bright sunny afternoon when a police car appears in the opposite direction. You let out a sigh of relief as you’re driving within the speed limit. But suddenly, after passing each other, the other vehicle whips around. And the ominous roof-mounted red and blue lights start flashing. As it turns out, you were driving without a license plate. What happens now? 

One thing is clear: you are likely to pay for a traffic ticket. Well, if only you had contacted Quick Auto Tags La Puente, CA, earlier in the day for your vehicle’s registration plate and stickers. Unfortunately, you now face a traffic violation, which will mean paying a fine of $196, assuming you’re not a repeat offender. Otherwise, things might get a tad hairy- financially, of course. Here’s what the law says about the license plate in California.

Displaying your License Plate

In California, all vehicles must have a license plate. It would be in your best interest if you displayed the license plate at the front and rear of the car. It must be positioned where law enforcement officers and other drivers can easily see it.

If you’re pulled over for a traffic violation, one of the first things the officer will do is check to see if your car’s license plate is displayed correctly. If it is not, you may be subjected to a fine. In some cases, the officer may even impound your vehicle. As such, it is vital to ensure your license plate is always clearly visible- simply displaying it isn’t enough.

Technically, you’ll only get a ticket if you get caught! And that’s if you stand out. Well, some of us like to stick out. Good luck with being the sore thumb in traffic. Some of the issues (most of which will compound your woes) that could lead to a traffic stop for not displaying your plate include:

  • Speeding
  • Erratic driving
  • Running a red light

You also don’t need to be driving to violate the law. A police officer can ticket your parked car for not displaying the license plate- if they chance upon it. And oh, have we talked about your insurance? A traffic ticket for not affixing your license plate could lead to higher insurance premiums- up to $1000 annually.

Registration Stickers

According to the law, you should also have registration stickers affixed to your license plates. Consequently, driving with expired registration stickers attracts fines or other penalties.

And failing to correct the violation within a certain period could lead to stiffer penalties. While the law is clear on the requirements for registration stickers, enforcement can vary from county to county. In some cases, motorists may receive a warning for an expired registration sticker, while others may be subject to stricter penalties. As such, you need to be aware of the laws in your county regarding registration stickers.

Thus, while driving without a front license plate is one thing, having it on the car but failing to have the required sticker could also land you in trouble. The law must be an… hold that thought.

Generally, for your license plate to be valid, it should bear two stickers: one displaying the year and the other the month your registration expires. You’ll receive a new annual sticker from the CA Department of Motor Vehicles whenever you renew your registration.

Vehicles That Require a License Plate

Depending on the vehicle you drive, you’ll require a registration tag. Typically, the following types of vehicles need a license plate:

  • Passenger vehicles
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Off-highway vehicles
  • Trailers


If a vehicle is transported on a trailer, you’re not required to display its license plate. The same goes for vintage cars with an official license plate cover.

You also won’t get a ticket if your car is registered in a state that doesn’t require you to display a front plate. These include the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, West Virginia, Kansas, Kentucky- the list goes on. Thus, if you plan to visit the Golden Bear State for a short duration, a front plate isn’t required- if your home state allows it. In some cases, the CA DMV may issue one license plate. You’ll need to affix it to the car’s rear.

As you can tell, driving without a license plate isn’t worth the hassle. Sure, the long queues at the DMV might be a pain, but do you have to risk a traffic violation and paying penalties or higher insurance rates? I hope not.v

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