November 7th, 2022

Pennsylvania Obscured License Plate Law Amended

On October 27, 2022, Governor Wolf signed HB 1486 into law, amending Section 1332 of the Vehicle Code.  Section 1332 formerly allowed a law enforcement officer to pull a motorist over if his or her license plate was “obscured in any manner.”  75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1332(b)(3)

The Superior Court recently interpreted this language and found that even a minor obstruction, like covering the state’s tourism website at the bottom of a license plate, was enough to justify a traffic stop.  Traffic stops can lead to more invasive vehicle searches and additional criminal charges.

Following criticism of this statutory interpretation, the state legislature took up this issue.  The new version of Section 1332 deems it unlawful to display a license plate which is “illegible, obscured, covered or otherwise obstructed in any manner at a reasonable distance.”  75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1332(b)(3).  The statute was also amended to make it illegal to use a tinted license plate cover.  See 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1332(b)(5).  The new legislation explicitly states that the statutory language should NOT be construed to prohibit license plate frames that only minimally cover the edges of a license plate.  See 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1332(b.1).

This amendment protects motorists from unwarranted vehicle stops and potential searches.  Law enforcement officers must possess either reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct a vehicle stop.  Traffic stops without such justification violate a motorist’s constitutional rights and may lead to the suppression of evidence in a criminal case.  If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges stemming from a vehicle stop, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Gross McGinley, LLP to learn more about your rights and potential defenses.

Attorney Sara A. Moyer is a dedicated Criminal Defense and Litigation attorney at Gross McGinley and has years of experience and knowledge that she brings to all her clients’ matters.

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