How Many Shades of Registration Violations?

Gray is in.  And DMV knows it.   

The News and Observer’s Road Worrier, Bruce Siceloff, reports that DMV is dropping its colorful registration renewal stickers in favor of neutral gray ones—and saving more than $70,000 a year as a result.  A single gray sticker featuring both the month and year will replace the separate month and year stickers that now adorn North Carolina plates.

Siceloff’s report got me thinking about those pesky registration violations.  C’mon, you know you’ve had one.  Or someone in your family has.

Expired tags.  Indeed, there were nearly 230,000 charges in 2014 for willfully displaying an expired registration plate on a vehicle. Violation of this provision is a Class 3 misdemeanor.  G.S. 20-111(2).  This is by far the most common type of registration violation and is the second most commonly charged criminal offense in the state (right behind speeding).

But there are several other ways in which people run afoul of the vehicle registration statutes.

Revoked registration. G.S. 20-111(2) also makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor to display or possess a registration card, certificate of title, or registration plate that has been canceled, revoked or suspended.  Such suspensions can result from failure to pay tolls due to the NC Turnpike Authority and failure to pay a fine imposed under G.S. 20-217 for passing a stopped school bus, among other misdeeds. More than 36,000 defendants were charged with this variety of registration offense in 2014.

Fictitious or altered registration. Possessing or displaying a registration card, certificate of title, or registration plate that you know has been altered or that you know is fictitious also is a Class 3 misdemeanor. There were more than 26,000 charges for this offense last year.

No registration. Driving a vehicle on a highway that is not registered or allowing someone else to so drive a vehicle you own also is a Class 3 misdemeanor. G.S. 20-111(1). More than 20,000 defendants were charged with this offense in 2014.  It likewise is unlawful to fail to display a current registration plate when driving a vehicle on a highway or to allow someone else to so drive a vehicle you own. Charges for this offense are far less common than those previously mentioned. There were 3,166 such charges in 2014.

Lending a plate. It is unlawful to give, lend or borrow a license plate for use on a vehicle other than that for which it was issued. G.S. 20-111(3). Both the giver and the recipient are guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. When a license plate is found being so improperly used, it must be canceled. There were nearly 4,000 charges for this offense last year.

Keep it clean.  G.S. 20-63(g) generally prohibits the alteration, disguise or concealment of numbers on a registration plate. A person who does any of the following commits a Class 2 misdemeanor:

  • Willfully mutilates, bends, or twists a registration plate
  • Causes a registration plate to be covered or partially covered by a bumper, light, spare tire, tire rack, strap, or other device
  • Paints, enamels, embosses, stamps, prints, perforates, or alters a registration plate or its figures or letters
  • Deposits oil, grease, or another substance on the plate for the purpose of making dust stick to it
  • Defaces, disfigures, changes, or attempts to change a letter or figure on a registration plate
  • Displays a registration plate in other than a horizontal upright position


In 2014, there were 647 charges for having a registration plate improperly attached, and 394 charges for other misdemeanor violations of G.S. 20-63(g).

License plate frames and covers. G.S. 20-63(g) also regulates license plate frames and covers.  A motor vehicle operator who does any of the following commits an infraction:

  • Intentionally covers any number or registration renewal sticker on a registration plate with material that makes the number or registration renewal sticker illegible
  • Covers a registration plate with any frame or transparent, clear, or color-tinted cover that makes a number or letter in the vehicle’s registration, the State name on the plate, or a number or month on the registration renewal sticker illegible
  • Willfully covers or causes to be covered any part of a registration plate by a device designed to prevent or interfere with the taking of clear photograph of the registration plate by a traffic control or toll collection system

Nearly 1,000 defendants were charged with infractions under G.S. 20-63(g) in 2014.

Failure to sign registration card. The next time you get in your car, open your glove box, and pull out your registration. Is it signed? If it isn’t, you’re in violation of G.S. 20-57(c), which requires that the owner of a vehicle sign the registration card with pen and ink. Registration cards must be carried in the vehicle to which they refer at all times and must be displayed upon an officer’s demand. Violation of these provisions is an infraction. Nearly 1,500 defendants were cited last year for failure to sign their registration cards, and more than twice that many for failure to carry them.

29 thoughts on “How Many Shades of Registration Violations?”

  1. A great source of ‘revenue’ for the State and its coffers. Forget the ‘spirit of the law’, is not a Revenue Bill (Policy). Look for anything to claim as injurious to the Citizens and a threat to their health safety and well being in order to generate the revenue needed to feed the State agents and cover their benefits.

    • Seeing as how all of these will be dismissed without any cost or fine upon proof of compliance, I do not see these as a viable source of revenue for the state.

      • I see what you’re saying, but coming from someone who wasn’t given the option to simply just take care of the tag, but instead, had to take care of the tag and still appear in court, I’ll tell you that THAT’S their source of revenue. I had to take my proof of registration to court, and when presented to the DA, the charge was voluntarily dismissed; however, I still had to pay over $300 in court costs.

        • Glad you had to pay court costs and registration. You are a menace to the state when you drive without tags and or insurance. All of the law abiding citizens pay for their insurance and registration and you think you are above the law to get off free. Then you come on here to complain? Get out of here. You got way less than what you deserved.

          • Also its annoying how everyone seems to forget that driving is a privilege and NOT a right!! All they have to do is follow the rules and all is well, but for some people that is too hard. Its the law, not an option, all they have to do is what the laws states and there will be no issues. Same thing for the people saying they’re using this as a way to stop and search the vehicle….if you are not breaking the law or have something in the vehicle you’re not supposed to then you are fine, if you break the law(no matter how “minor”) then you need to be punished.

          • The statutory requirement that licenses be procured for motor vehicles used upon the highways is based on the servitude put on the highways by such use and the advantage which the improved highways may afford the business in which the motor vehicle is employed.” Patterson vs. Southern Ry. Co., 198 S.E. 364, 214 N.C. 38.

            “The privilege of using the streets and highways by the operation thereon of motor carriers for hire can be acquired only by permission or license from the state or its political subdivisions.” Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Ed., p.920.

            Marinate on that a bit! Are you using the roads for profit or gain in your consumer goods!?

    • More than anything these laws are a source of reasonable suspicion to stop a driver to try to find probable cause to arrest the driver for more illicit crimes.

    • I pay what I owe every year so the ones not paying should get a citation. If they go to court then they are not paying extra. You have gotta be one of the “Sovereign Citizen” thinkers, based on your reply.

  2. The General Assembly used to have failure to sign a registration card as a misdemeanor until 2013 when they downgraded it to an infraction. Before 2013 and before Arizona v Gant (2009), failing to sign your registration card could allow a police officer to arrest you and search your car incident to arrest.

  3. In regards to G.S. 20-63(g): I see MANY people who have either put their month sticker on the year sticker side and vice versa. I also see a lot who have covered up the month sticker with a subsequent year’s sticker. Would this run afoul of 20-63(g)? I argue that the first situation, while a product of not following directions, is not necessarily illegal. However, the second situation (sticking a year sticker on a month sticker) is akin to allowing a “device” to partially cover the plate or to covering the sticker like a license frame does.

    • 20-66(c) Renewal Stickers. – A single registration renewal sticker issued by the Division must be displayed on the registration plate that it renews in the place prescribed by the Commissioner and must indicate the period for which it is valid. Except where physical differences between a registration renewal sticker and a registration plate render a provision of this Chapter inapplicable, the provisions

  4. DMV obviously doesn’t care if this gets enforced. The printing on these new stickers is so small, the officer would need to be standing neat the plate to read it.

  5. I recently was transfered to the traffic division with my agency. One of the questions posed during my interview was “What is the appropriate charge for an expired out-of-state registration?”

    I answered that you cannot charge an out-of-state registration violation. My superiors disagreed. They stated that I should charge the operator with “operating a motor vehicle without registration.” They argued that just like a driver’s license if the license is expired you would charge them with “no operator’s license.”

    I disagreed. I explained that I beleived that the law requires a vehicle to be registered with NCDMV, one being required to be registered. I explained that if an individual was operating a motor vehicle within NC and did not meet one of the standards that required it to be registered, then how could you charge someone with failing to register a vehicle that did not need to be registered. I used the example of a family on vacation at the beach and were only here for a week, but their registration was expired.

    What would your analysis be?

    • Natural beings are not bound to statutes, codes & regulations so therefore; STATUTES, CODES, REGULATIONS, RULES, POLICIES ARE NOT LAW

      “The common law is the real law, the Supreme Law of the land, the code, rules, regulations, policy and statutes are “not the law”, [Self V. Rhay, 61 Wn (2d) 261]

      Legislated statutes enforced upon the people in the name of law are a FRAUD. They have no authority and are without mercy. Justice without mercy is Godless and therefore repugnant to our United States Constitution. Lawmakers were given authority by the people to legislate codes, rules, regulations and statutes which are policies, procedures, and “law” to control the behavior of bureaucrats, elected and appointed officials, municipalities and agencies, but were never given authority to control the behavior of the people, as we read in a US Supreme court decision “All codes, rules, and regulations are for government authorities only, not human/creators in accordance with God’s laws, All codes, rules, and regulations are unconstitutional and lacking due process…” [Rodrigues v. Ray Donavan (U.S. Department of Labor) 769 F. 2d 1344, 1348 (1985)] and again “All laws, rules and practices which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void” [Marbury v. Madison, 5th US (2 Cranch) 137, 174, 176, (1803).

      Legislators simply don’t have the authority to rule-make “Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them.” [Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 491]

      “No state shall convert a liberty into a license, and charge a fee therefore.” [Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105]

      “If the State converts a rights (liberty) into a privilege, the citizen can ignore the license and fee, and engage in the right (liberty) with impunity.” [Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, Alabama, 373 U.S. 262]

  6. I’ve actually heard of people driving with an unregistered car for extended periods of time because they bought the car at a Sheriff’s auction, it had a lien on it, and they never were able to get a title to the car. I have no idea how they were able to get plates on it etc to be able to do that BUT it shows that there certainly is an ignorance in the law when it comes to Registration violations. Many people will even buy or sell vehicles without even showing a title at all, never mind going through a proper title transfer. For people dealing with tough title issues because of complex situations like abandoned vehicles or cars taken by car shops due to mechanic’s liens, check out they help only with North Carolina title issues. And yes, I know I for one have gotten spotted and pulled over with expired tags, as did my wife recently. Ouch. Thank goodness they waived it when we showed that we got it renewed soon thereafter.

  7. The General Statute states “NUMBER PLATES” must be in an upright, horizontal position….. no specific language exists to restrict the rotated installation angle of “REGISTRATION PLATES”, including upside down, given no part is “WILLFULLY” obstructed from view…..

  8. I drove a family members car and was unaware that the license plate had been revoked. I was given a citation for unlawfully and willfully operating a motor vehicle on a street or Hwy. (Display)(Possess) A (Registration Number Plate), knowing the same to be (Revoked) driving on a revoked tag. How can I be charged with this when I had no idea. I was under the impression that the car was totally legal. Also there is no way to get a plate or anything because I was told that I am not the owner of the vehicle. Is this something I can be charged with in court?

  9. We just received a registration card and sticker for a new car purchase by mail. There is no signature blank on the registration card and no instructions to sign the card anywhere. The law requires that a signature blank be provided. If there is no blank provided, is it still required that it be signed?

  10. What is the difference between expired registration and expired tags? If my registration is current and I haven’t yet placed the sticker on the tag am I in violation? Are towing companies required to run my license # through a database to see if my registration expired, or can they just tow me because the sticker isn’t there yet?

  11. My entire life has been ruined by simply failing to get a sticker for my plate. I had no sticker. I got a ticket. I failed to appear. They revoked my license. I got pulled by highway patrol. I started to walk away and was chased by a guy with a gun. I made it home. Sheriff busted my door down 5 days later and placed hands on me. I was cuffed. I spent 5 days in jail until I was bonded out. The entire time my car had insurance.

    So now I am facing resisting arrest and driving with a revoked license.

    This is absurd. All because of a damn sticker I didn’t get? They could have brought me the sticker and put it on my car for me instead of breaking down my door and hand cuff in me at gun point.

    I am the best driver I know. It is pathetic. The law is pathetic, the police are pathetic. I cannot believe the system works like this. I have had my door busted, guns pointed at me, spent time in jail and have yet to be convicted. All because of a sticker on my plate.

  12. I agree there should be a fine or late fee, and I also agree that further action can be taken after prolonged use of a vehicle with expired registration. I feel there should be more of a grace period to give drivers a little more time to be in compliance. I pretty much feel like this is a way to generate revenue, either through payment of the ticket or in the courts. I personally am dealing with an expired registration – and not because I don’t want to pay. My family is homeless (me and my 2 youngest kids). I’m struggling to pay for the hotel we’re staying in while trying to keep my kids fed (I can’t even find a shelter to go to right now). I’ll be able to pay within 7 days of the grace of period, but the point is – this is one more stressor on our financial situation. So, in order to get to work to try to get my family back on stable ground, I have to pay taxes on a vehicle I don’t even own yet (who pays taxes on property they don’t own? I digress), pay a fee to drive on the road itself and then pay all the other stuff that goes along with having a vehicle – which is a necessity in Raleigh, because the bus system is terrible.

  13. Totally agree..if you do not yet own the vehicle it is not yours so why pay property taxes?.just went through this and shoved out 415$to courts and 150 to in May time to pay taxes and DMV so over again..and inspection..Its all about money..they don’t care. Been behind in rent and every bill since then.happened last month..stemming from May17 when I got the car. Which broke down of timing belt bending valves and costing 4,000 45 days of having car financed. been a headache since I got it..due to my car I had being totaled loss..going thru it..may get out out for late on payment of rent every now need brakes.Volvo says cosy 375.smh.just ready to say screw it all and live off the land. But have a son to provide for..lifes hard..not mention rent prices are way up,hard to get into now days.Just sad..economy is app bad,affordable housing hard to find..lots of ppl are now even riding together n living together to cut cost..

  14. I see cars all day long with expired tags, which means they haven’t gotten the car inspected and they haven’t paid their property taxes. Is there a website that I can go to and report this violation?


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