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I live in America (VA), and I wanted to replace my current license plate with a customized one.

I found an item on Amazon, which gives me a blank black license plate with white text.

The original content and my license text is still the same, however now the design would be different. Are there are laws that prohibit doing what I want to do?

I did some research and found that under the code of Virginia, § 46.2-722, it states:

Any person who, with fraudulent intent, alters any license plate or decal issued by the Department or by any other state, forges or counterfeits any license plate or decal purporting to have been issued by the Department under the provisions of this title or by any other state under a similar law or who, with fraudulent intent, alters, falsifies, or forges any assignment thereof, or who holds or uses any license plate or decal knowing it to have been altered, forged, or falsified, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

I'm confused, does it mean that I can't use a license plate that I don't own, or does it prohibit the usage of the license plate I want to get?

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  • Most states sell license plates with custom text and/or a choice of background. Jan 11, 2023 at 13:35
  • Are you customizing the registration number or just the background design of the plate?
    – Barmar
    Jan 11, 2023 at 17:08
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    When I lived in VA, black plates with white text were reserved for 'antique' vehicles.
    – JimmyJames
    Jan 11, 2023 at 18:15
  • Context: in many parts of Europe, license/number plates are purchased and produced privately. In some places, the vehicle registration authority inspects the plate and affixes a sticker to it. This allows some level of customization within regulatory parameters, e.g. plastic vs aluminum, glued-on letters vs stamped vs printed, backlighting, borders, labeling with UK vs GB vs ENG/SCO/CYM etc.
    – user71659
    Jan 11, 2023 at 18:48
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    Even if it were legal to have a non-standard plate bearing your state issued plate number, the fact that you're asking suggests others woulc question it's legality too. You'd probably get pulled over and issued a citation by an officer who thinks it's not legal, see Heien v. North Carolina
    – Sidney
    Jan 11, 2023 at 20:51

2 Answers 2

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forges or counterfeits any license plate

That means you can't make your own. Certainly any created plate in different colors or design will attract attention of the authorities as well.

You will need to use the license plate issued by the state.

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    In Texas, at least, the license plates have special reflective designs so that the toll cameras can scan them. So front and back plates have to be state-issued.
    – B. Goddard
    Jan 11, 2023 at 13:41
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    Isn't "with fraudulent intent" key here?
    – Bartors
    Jan 11, 2023 at 13:46
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    @Nuro007 Virginia requires both front and rear plates, so no, you can't use your own plate there. You must go with one of the designs issued by the state. Jan 11, 2023 at 15:54
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    @Trish Active Military personnel have an official "Home of Record" which is where they joined the military from. They can keep their vehicles registered to their HOR state longer than normal civilians where they currently live because their Military assignments often have them moving around the country multiple times in a short period. I lived in three states in 6 years of my enlistment which were not my HOR and I never had to register my vehicle in any of them.
    – CitizenRon
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:22
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    @Hobbamok I suggest that unless you're planning on fighting the intent side of the charge (with a lawyer) this is a losing proposition. As with many comma-laden laws, this one isn't really clear, and courts tend to just hammer you. Not to mention, once you're pulled over you are at the mercy of the officer.
    – Tiger Guy
    Jan 12, 2023 at 19:21
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Your confusion probably stems from trying to look at this issue from the wrong end. Instead of looking at the VA Code related to details of license plate forgeries, look earlier in the code for § 46.2-712 Requirements of license plates and decals which states that all graphic design details of the license plate is at "the discretion of the Commissioner".

Looking back further in chapter § 46.2-711. Furnishing number and design of plates; displaying on vehicles required, paragraph F states: "No vehicles shall be operated on the highways in the Commonwealth without displaying the license plates required by this chapter" and that chapter refers to "The Department shall furnish one license plate for every registered moped, motorcycle, autocycle, tractor truck, semitrailer, or trailer, and two license plates for every other registered motor vehicle" so it appears that the only valid license plate allowed in VA is explicitly one that is issued by "The Department".

Also, you missed a very important part of § 46.2-722. Altered or forged license plates or decals; use as evidence of knowledge.

"The owner of a vehicle who operates it while it displays altered or forged license plates or decals shall be presumed to have knowledge of the alteration or forgery."

Since you would know that your proposed custom license plate is not approved by the Commissioner, you would almost certainly be found guilty of violating 46.2-722 as that would take care of the "with fraudulent intent" part of the Code.

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    "two license plates for every other registered motor vehicle" I'm confused - each two cars share license plates? Jan 13, 2023 at 16:11
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    @AdamBarnes if you follow the link, you'll see from the context that "every other motor vehicle" means "every motor vehicle that is not a moped, motorcycle, autocycle, tractor truck, semitrailer, or trailer."
    – phoog
    Jan 14, 2023 at 9:14
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    @Criggie that's true, but that's not what's going on here. Rather, Virginia requires one plate for mopeds, motorcycles, autocycles, tractor trucks, semitrailers, and trailers, and two for everything else.
    – phoog
    Jan 14, 2023 at 9:16
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    @Criggie the quote says "every other vehicle", which has specific meaning. Jan 14, 2023 at 21:04
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    Sorry for the confusion. My edited quote made perfect sense to me, but probably because I read the original.
    – CitizenRon
    Jan 17, 2023 at 14:41

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