New National/State Mottos License Plate

If you’ve driven around much in North Carolina, you’ve likely noted the proliferation of special license plates. Legislation authorizing the issuance of such plates is correspondingly ubiquitous. So it wasn’t particularly noteworthy when, earlier this year, the General Assembly added two new special registration plates to the list that now numbers in the hundreds, one for the Order of the Eastern Star Prince Hall Affiliated and another for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

What is noteworthy about 2018 license plate legislation is the General Assembly’s authorization of a new standard-issue license plate for private passenger vehicle: a National/State Mottos plate.


National/State Mottos plate. Section 34.27 of S.L. 2018-5 (The State Budget Act), as modified by S.L. 2018-74 (S 145), authorizes the owner of a private passenger vehicle or a private hauler vehicle licensed for 6,000 pounds or less to choose between a First in Flight plate, a First in Freedom plate, or the newly created National/State Mottos plate, without having to meet additional requirements for, or pay the additional fees associated with, a special registration plate.

The new plate must have the United States motto “In God We Trust” printed at the top of the plate and the State motto “To Be Rather Than To Seem” printed elsewhere on the plate. The background must include an image chosen by DMV that is representative of the American flag.

The legislation authorizing the plate was enacted on June 25, 2018, with an effective date of July 1, 2018. I’m not sure, however, when the plates will be made available to vehicle owners. DMV’s website does not yet mention them as an option.

Rules about license plates. If you are in the market for a new license plate, or want to make sure your old plate is in compliance, here are a few rules to remember.

  • The plate may be used only on the vehicle for which it is issued. G.S. 20-111(3).
  • The plate must be displayed in a horizontal upright position. G.S. 20-63(g).
  • The owner must keep the plate reasonably clean and free from dust and dirt. G.S. 20-63(e).
  • A driver may not cover any part of any registration plate (including plates issued by other states) with a frame or cover that makes a number or letter included in the vehicle’s registration, the State name on the plate, or a number or month on the registration renewal sticker illegible. G.S. 20-63(g).
  • If DMV finds that a registration plate is illegible, it may order the owner to surrender the plate. When the plate is surrendered, DMV must issue a new plate at no charge. G.S. 20-63(a).

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