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Defacing Arizona-issued vehicle license plates is illegal

With so many options, why deface your plate?
January 10, 2014

PHOENIX — With more than 50 specialty license plate options for Arizona vehicles, why would anyone want to deface their plate? But it happens – and it’s illegal.

Defacing, customizing or modifying an Arizona license plate is a violation of the law and might subject the driver to a traffic stop by police, which could lead to a citation. The Arizona Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Phoenix Police Department, wants to make vehicle owners aware of the state laws governing registration and proper display of the Arizona-issued license plate.

A vehicle owner who breaks the law could be charged with a misdemeanor, with court fine of at least $300.

The Arizona-issued license plate must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle with the following requirements:

  • Must be displayed in a position so the license plate is clearly legible, securely attached to prevent swinging, and at a height at least 12 inches from the ground to the bottom of the plate. The name of the state at the top of the plate cannot be obscured or covered.
  • Temporary issued placards must also be displayed per the same requirements.
  • Arizona law requires the vehicle owner to replace any issued license plate that has become damaged, deteriorated, illegible or unreadable.

Phoenix Police Department officers, along with other law enforcement agencies around the state, are vigilant in the enforcement of traffic violations, with a focus on issuing citations to motorists for the improper display of a license plate along with violations of vehicle registration and proof of insurance requirements. ADOT Enforcement and Compliance Division officers also conduct statewide enforcement campaigns aimed at vehicle registration compliance.

Arizona law requires, with some exceptions, all motor vehicles that will be operated on a public roadway or highway to be currently registered and displaying the issued license plate and validation tab. A vehicle owner must apply for an Arizona vehicle title and current registration within 15 days of the purchase or transfer of a motor vehicle or trailer.

Arizona law also prohibits the issued registration card from being changed, defaced or altered. A vehicle registration card and proof of insurance must be provided upon request of a police officer conducting a traffic stop.

For more information regarding the Phoenix Police Department, visit: phoenix.gov/police/index.html.

For further information about the ADOT Motor Vehicle Division, visit: azdot.gov/mvd.