Q&A - Tinted Licence Plate Cover

Q&A ImageQuestion: I have had a tinted licence plate cover on my vehicle for over 5 years now, and just recently I have been getting pulled over for it. The first event happened last week and the officer went to explain to me how they were illegal and that I should remove it immediately.

Myself being the type that does not follow orders well, I left it on my vehicle. I had explained to the officer that I do regular highway driving and that my plate gets covered in bugs and rock chips if I do not have the cover on. He issued me a warning and let me go.

This morning I was pulled over in the same spot by a different officer. He asked me for my documents of which i provided, went to his car and came back with a ticket. He didn't ask me to sign, rather he handed it back with my insurance documents.

When looking over the ticket in closer detail, he issued the ticket to me citing that I had violated "3.02 of the MVAR - improper display of plate" however I do not believe this to be correct.

My plate is affixed to the vehicle correctly and in the correct position. in reading through your posts on this site, I believe he should have cited "3.03 of the MVAR - plates to be unobstructed".

Would this qualify as a ticket fallacy should i dispute this in court?

image of a tinted licence plate cover

You Read Correctly

You have read the law correctly:

Number plates in horizontal position

3.02 A number plate shall at all times be securely fastened in a horizontal position to the vehicle for which it is issued.

Plates to be unobstructed

3.03 A number plate must be kept entirely unobstructed and free from dirt or foreign material, so that the numbers and letters on it may be plainly seen and read at all times and so that the numbers and letters may be accurately photographed using a speed monitoring device or traffic light safety device prescribed under section 83.1 of the Act.

Licence Plate in Compliance

If your licence plates comply with 3.02 then yes, you should be able to successfully dispute the ticket. It appears that the officer chose the section based on the wording in the Quick Reference For Traffic Law Enforcement rather than familiarity with the regulations. It's an easy mistake to make.


However, it would be a good idea to remove the covers...

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... but one cannot help (or at least I can't) thinking that the cops around there need to find something better to do with their time.

Y'know, ticketing people who follow too close, ticketing people who don't signal turns or lane-changes, ticketing people who disobey amber - or even, red - lights, ticketing people who don't properly give right-of-way to pedestrians. Hell, how about ticketing pedestrians who don't properly give right-of-way to drivers!

All those key elements that would make our roads a little bit safer, and a little bit more civilized.

So long as the dude's license plates can be read, he's doing no harm.

...If everyone was driving around with these clear or tinted covers...

It would be quite trivial to mount a clear LCD matrix in between, that could black-out the plate at a press of a button. (For avoiding tolls or other nefarious purposes)

Trivial on the face of it? Maybe, that is until the cover prevents the plate from being properly photographed by a red light camera or seen and reported by someone that was run off the road just to come up with two possibilities.

I've interrupted a few prohibited drivers checking stuff like this.

So, if nothing else better is going by at the time, these things sometimes turn into a traffic cop's jackpot.

Once at trial the officer can ask for the violation ticket to be amended to the correct section. The Judge may or may not allow the amendment or may allow the amendment and offer you an adjournment to prepare your new defence.

Or even easier, you say politely that you would like to go to trial on the matter, not telling the officer of the "wrong section" and once the trial has started he can no longer amend it so no need to even cross examine the officer or even give evidence. Simply state the wrong section in your summations at the end.

At any rate, shouldn't be very hard to be successful here

Unbelievable.  You were warned.  You ignored the warning.  You got cited.  Suck it up .....

Several years ago I purchased a set of clear license plate covers at Canadian Tire.  Before opening the packaging at home, I noticed the small print warning these covers may not be legal in some jurisdictions.  I called the Delta Police and local RCMP which provided fuzzy answers.  

I wrote to ICBC Road Safety and received a letter stating that clear plate covers were allowed, but tinted covers were illegal because they obstructed the plate.  I wrote to Canadian Tire and included a copy of the letter from ICBC Road Safety.  Since then, the Canadian Tire website states that tinted plate covers/shields are "for Offroad/Showroom Use Only.."

I returned the clear plastic covers to Canadian Tire after learning that all plate covers are illegal in Washington State.

ICBC is not the place that I would go for information on vehicle equipment.

Sadly, the police resources should have been the most reliable and were not. Did you speak to a traffic officer or a civilian person who happened to answer the call? I've watch well meaning civilian employees supply incorrect information in these circumstances.

In the case of clear covers, the problem comes from the requirement to be able to photograph the plate with intersection safety cameras. At the wrong angle, even a clear cover can reflect sunlight and prevent this from happening.