BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Lots of cars you see on Maryland roads have frames around their license plates.
Many dealerships put them on just-purchased vehicles as a marketing tool, while some people buy their own novelty frames with the name of their favorite sports team or their alma mater.
But did you know that these frames could get you pulled over?
That’s right. Obscuring any part of your license plate with a frame like the one pictured above is reason enough for a police officer to stop you, according to Maryland State Police spokesman Sgt. DaVaughn Parker.
“Could someone pull someone over for this license plate, yeah absolutely,” he tells WJZ. “But it’s all on the officer’s discretion.”
The violation would be against the state’s transportation article §21–1112.1, which says “a person may not obscure or modify any vehicle registration plate with intent to avoid identification.”
A traffic stop for a plate frame would be considered a “probable cause stop,” Parker says. But it’s up to the individual officer whether to initiate such a stop, or issue a fine.
So while an un-blurred photo of the license plate above would show the tag number — the “meat and potatoes” of the plate, Parker says — the owner of that vehicle could still get pulled over because the word “Maryland” is obscured.
“There should be nothing on a registration plate at all,” Parker adds.
Prince George’s County-based attorney Christopher Peretti says he has handled cases before where a client was pulled over for a license plate frame. In fact, he says he’s dealing with one right now in Harford County.
But Peretti’s interpretation of the law is that a typical frame, one that does not cover the actual license plate number, is not illegal. He says judges have sided with him about that in the past.
“You look around and like half the cars you see in the parking lot or on the road have these frames,” he says. Even so, he doesn’t see cases involving them very often.
He blogged about the issue in January 2014. You can read that HERE.