Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 46.2. Motor Vehicles
Chapter 6. Titling and Registration of Motor Vehicles
12/2/2021

Article 9. License Plates, Generally.

§ 46.2-711. Furnishing number and design of plates; displaying on vehicles required.

A. 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, except to licensed motor vehicle dealers and persons delivering unladen vehicles who shall be furnished one license plate. The license plates for trailers, semitrailers, commercial vehicles, and trucks, other than license plates for dealers, may be of such design as to prevent removal without mutilating some part of the indicia forming a part of the license plate, when secured to the bracket.

B. The Department shall issue appropriately designated license plates for:

1. Passenger-carrying vehicles for rent or hire for the transportation of passengers for private trips, other than TNC partner vehicles as defined in § 46.2-2000 and emergency medical services vehicles pursuant to clause (iii) of § 46.2-649.1:1;

2. Taxicabs;

3. Passenger-carrying vehicles operated by common carriers or restricted common carriers;

4. Property-carrying motor vehicles registered pursuant to § 46.2-697 except pickup or panel trucks as defined in § 46.2-100;

5. Applicants, other than TNC partners as defined in § 46.2-2000 and emergency medical services vehicles pursuant to clause (iii) of § 46.2-649.1:1, who operate motor vehicles as passenger carriers for rent or hire;

6. Vehicles operated by nonemergency medical transportation carriers as defined in § 46.2-2000; and

7. Trailers and semitrailers.

C. The Department shall issue appropriately designated license plates for motor vehicles held for rental as defined in § 58.1-1735.

D. The Department shall issue appropriately designated license plates for low-speed vehicles.

E. The Department shall issue appropriately designated license plates for military surplus motor vehicles registered pursuant to § 46.2-730.1.

F. No vehicles shall be operated on the highways in the Commonwealth without displaying the license plates required by this chapter. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to vehicles used to collect and deliver the United States mail to the extent that their rear license plates may be covered by the "CAUTION, FREQUENT STOPS, U.S. MAIL" sign when the vehicle is engaged in the collection and delivery of the United States mail.

G. For any summons issued for a violation of this section, the court may, in its discretion, dismiss the summons, where proof of compliance with this section is provided to the court on or before the court date.

Code 1950, §§ 46-96, 46-160; 1950, p. 625; 1954, c. 211; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-99; 1974, cc. 150, 477; 1989, c. 727; 1993, c. 290; 1995, c. 46; 1997, cc. 774, 816; 2001, c. 596; 2005, c. 140; 2011, cc. 405, 639, 881, 889; 2013, c. 783; 2014, cc. 53, 256; 2015, cc. 2, 3; 2016, cc. 125, 133; 2017, cc. 670, 790, 815; 2018, c. 555.

§ 46.2-712. Requirements of license plates and decals.

A. Every license plate shall display the registration number assigned to the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer and to the owner thereof, the name of the Commonwealth, which may be abbreviated, and the year or the month and year, which may be abbreviated and in the form of decals, for which it is issued. Subject to the need for legibility, the size of the plate, the letters, numerals, and decals thereon, and the color of the plate, letters, numerals, and decals shall be in the discretion of the Commissioner. Decals shall be placed on the license plates in the manner prescribed by the Commissioner, and shall indicate the month and year of expiration. On the issuance of the decals, a new registration card shall be issued with the same date of expiration as the decals.

B. Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the Department may issue permanent license plates without decals and without a month and year of expiration for all trailers and semitrailers, regardless of weight; trucks and tractor trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds; taxicabs or other motor vehicles performing a taxicab service; and common carrier vehicles operated for hire, both of the latter as defined in § 46.2-2000 that are in compliance with the requirements of Chapter 20 (§ 46.2-2000 et seq.) of this title. In addition, the Department may issue permanent license plates without decals and without a month and year of expiration for trucks and tractor trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings or gross combination weight ratings of at least 7,501 pounds but not more than 26,000 pounds, provided that such vehicles are for business use only, and for farm vehicles registered with the Department pursuant to § 46.2-698.

C. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of this section, any person who, pursuant to former § 56-304.3, repealed by Chapters 744 and 803 of the Acts of Assembly of 1995, obtained from the State Corporation Commission an exemption from the marker or decal requirements of former § 56-304, 56-304.1 or 56-304.2, and who has painted or, in the case of newly acquired vehicles, who paints an identifying number on the sides of any vehicle with respect to which such exemption applies and, in all other respects, continues to comply with the requirements of former § 56-304.3, shall be deemed to be in compliance with § 46.2-2011.23 and subdivision 18 of § 46.2-2011.24.

Code 1950, § 46-97; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-101; 1972, c. 609; 1974, c. 170; 1988, c. 701; 1989, c. 727; 1997, c. 283; 1999, c. 593; 2000, c. 133; 2005, c. 301.

§ 46.2-713. License plates and decals remain property of Department.

Every license plate and decal issued by the Department shall remain the property of the Department and shall be subject to be revoked, cancelled, and repossessed by the Department at any time as provided in this title.

Code 1950, § 46-98; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-102; 1972, c. 609; 1989, c. 727.

§ 46.2-714. Permanent license plates.

Notwithstanding the provisions of §§ 46.2-711 and 46.2-712 the Department may, in its discretion, issue a type of license plate suitable for permanent use on motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, and motorcycles, together with decals, unless decals are not required under § 46.2-712, to be attached to the license plates to indicate the registration period for which such vehicles have been properly licensed. The design of the license plates and decals, when required, shall be determined by the Commissioner.

Every permanent license plate and decal, when required, shall be returned to the Department whenever the owner of a vehicle disposes of it by sale or otherwise and when not actually in use on a motor vehicle, except dealer's plates temporarily not in use. The person in whose name the license plate is registered may apply, during the registration period for which it is issued, for the return thereof if the license plate is intended to be used on a subsequently acquired motor vehicle.

Every permanent license plate and decal, when issued, shall be returned to the Department whenever the owner of a vehicle elects to garage the vehicle and discontinue the use of it on the highway. The person in whose name the license plate is registered may apply, during the registration period for which it is issued, for the return thereof if the vehicle is to be returned to use on the highway.

For the purposes of this section, the term "motor vehicle" does not include a "moped" as defined in § 46.2-100.

Code 1950, § 46-99; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-103; 1972, c. 609; 1989, c. 727; 1997, c. 283; 2013, c. 783.

§ 46.2-715. Display of license plates.

License plates assigned to a motor vehicle, other than a moped, motorcycle, autocycle, tractor truck, trailer, or semitrailer, or to persons licensed as motor vehicle dealers or transporters of unladen vehicles, shall be attached to the front and the rear of the vehicle. The license plate assigned to a moped, motorcycle, autocycle, trailer, or semitrailer shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle. The license plate assigned to a tractor truck shall be attached to the front of the vehicle. The license plates issued to licensed motor vehicle dealers and to persons licensed as transporters of unladen vehicles shall consist of one plate for each set issued and shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle to which it is assigned.

For any summons issued for a violation of this section, the court may, in its discretion, dismiss the summons, where proof of compliance with this section is provided to the court on or before the court date.

Code 1950, § 46-101; 1954, c. 210; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-106; 1972, c. 609; 1974, c. 150; 1989, c. 727; 2013, c. 783; 2014, cc. 53, 256; 2017, c. 670.

§ 46.2-716. How license plates fastened to vehicle; altering appearance of license plates.

A. Every license plate shall be securely fastened to the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer to which it is assigned:

1. So as to prevent the plate from swinging,

2. In a position to be clearly visible, and

3. In a condition to be clearly legible.

B. No colored glass, colored plastic, bracket, holder, mounting, frame, or any other type of covering shall be placed, mounted, or installed on, around, or over any license plate if such glass, plastic, bracket, holder, mounting, frame, or other type of covering in any way alters or obscures (i) the alpha-numeric information, (ii) the color of the license plate, (iii) the name or abbreviated name of the state wherein the vehicle is registered, or (iv) any character or characters, decal, stamp, or other device indicating the month or year in which the vehicle's registration expires. No insignia, emblems, or trailer hitches or couplings shall be mounted in such a way as to hide or obscure any portion of the license plate or render any portion of the license plate illegible.

C. The Superintendent may make such regulations as he may deem advisable to enforce the proper mounting and securing of the license plate on the vehicle.

D. For any summons issued for a violation of this section, the court may, in its discretion, dismiss the summons, where proof of compliance with this section is provided to the court on or before the court date.

Code 1950, § 46-102; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-107; 1960, c. 119; 1986, c. 186; 1989, c. 727; 2000, c. 258; 2001, c. 19; 2006, c. 549; 2017, c. 670.

§ 46.2-717. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1997, c. 486.

§ 46.2-718. Use of old license plates or decals after application for new.

An owner who has applied for renewal of registration of a motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer fifteen days prior to the day the registration period begins, but who has not received the license plates, decals, or registration card for the ensuing registration period shall be entitled to operate or permit the operation of the vehicle on the highways on displaying on the vehicle the license plates or decals issued for the preceding registration period for such time to be prescribed by the Department as it may find necessary to issue new license plates or decals.

Code 1950, § 46-104; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-109; 1972, c. 609; 1989, c. 727.

§ 46.2-719. Permit for emergency use of license plates.

A. The Commissioner may, in his discretion, grant a special permit for the use of license plates on a vehicle other than the vehicle for which the license plates were issued, when the vehicle for which the license plates were issued is undergoing repairs in a licensed motor vehicle dealer's repair shop and when the license plates are being used on a vehicle owned by the dealer in whose repair shop the vehicle is being repaired.

B. Application for the permit shall be made jointly by the dealer and the person whose vehicle is being repaired, on forms provided by the Department and shall show, in addition to whatever other information may be required by the Commissioner, that an emergency exists which would warrant the issuance of the permit.

C. The permit shall be evidenced by a certificate, issued by the Commissioner, which shall show the date of issuance, the person to whom issued, the motor number, serial number or identification number of the vehicle on which the license plates are to be used, and shall be in the immediate possession of the person operating the vehicle at all times while operating it. The certificate shall be valid for a period of five days from its issuance. On its expiration, application may be made for a renewal permit in the manner provided for the original permit, but only one renewal permit shall be issued to cover any one emergency.

D. The Commissioner may, subject to the limitations and conditions set forth in this section, authorize a motor vehicle dealer licensed in the Commonwealth to issue such permit on behalf of the Commissioner in accordance with the provisions of subsections A, B, and C of this section provided such permits are issued only with regard to the transfer in an emergency situation of license plates from a vehicle undergoing repairs in that dealer's repair shop. Any dealer to whom the authority is delegated by the Commissioner shall use the forms provided by the Commissioner and shall maintain in permanent form a record of all permits issued by him and any other relevant information that may be required by the Commissioner. Each record shall be kept by the dealer for not less than three years from the date of entry. The dealer shall allow full access to these records, during regular business hours, to duly authorized representatives of the Department and to law-enforcement officers. One copy of any permit of this kind issued by a dealer and the application form submitted for the permit shall be filed promptly by the dealer with the Department. The Commissioner, on determining that the provisions of this section or the directions of the Department are not being complied with by a dealer, may suspend the right of such dealer to issue license plate transfer permits.

Code 1950, § 46-104.1; 1952, c. 537; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-110; 1978, c. 289; 1989, c. 727.

§ 46.2-720. Use of license plates from another vehicle in certain circumstances.

The owner of a motor vehicle to which license plates have been assigned by the Department may remove the license plates from the motor vehicle and use them on another motor vehicle owned by a person operating a garage or owned by a motor vehicle dealer provided such use does not extend for more than five days and provided the use is limited to the time during which the first motor vehicle is being repaired or while the second motor vehicle is loaned to him for demonstration, as provided by § 46.2-719.

For the purposes of this section, the term "motor vehicle" does not include a "moped" as defined in § 46.2-100.

1960, c. 457, § 46.1-110.1; 1989, c. 727; 2013, c. 783.

§ 46.2-721. Application of liability insurance policy to vehicle carrying plates from insured vehicle.

The policy of liability insurance issued to the owner of a motor vehicle and covering the operation thereof shall extend to and be the primary insurance applicable to his operation of a motor vehicle on which he has placed license tags from another motor vehicle as provided in § 46.2-720.

For the purposes of this section, the term "motor vehicle" does not include a "moped" as defined in § 46.2-100.

1960, c. 457, § 46.1-110.2; 1989, c. 727; 2013, c. 783.

§ 46.2-722. Altered or forged license plates or decals; use as evidence of knowledge.

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.

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.

Code 1950, § 46-12; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-112; 1972, c. 609; 1982, c. 247; 1989, c. 727.

§ 46.2-723. License plates for transporting mobile homes used as temporary offices at construction sites.

The Department shall issue to persons engaged in the business of transporting from one construction site to another mobile homes or house trailers used on those sites as temporary offices, license plates to be affixed to such mobile homes or house trailers while being transported. The plates shall not be issued or used to transport mobile homes or house trailers which exceed normally permissible load dimensions. The fee for each plate issued under this section shall be twenty-two dollars per year.

1986, c. 226, § 46.1-44.1; 1989, c. 727.

§ 46.2-724. Operation for hire of certain vehicles registered as not-for-hire; penalty.

If a motor vehicle of over 10,000 pounds registered gross weight that is registered to be operated exclusively not-for-hire is operated for-hire, the licensee shall be guilty of a traffic infraction. This penalty shall be in addition to the penalty prescribed by § 46.2-704.

Code 1950, § 46-168; 1950, p. 625; 1956, c. 477; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-160; 1978, c. 605; 1982, c. 672; 1989, c. 727; 1995, c. 46; 1997, cc. 774, 816.