Traffic Cop: False Evidence of Registration, License Plates and Emergency Vehicles – Oh My

Times are tough, money is tight and the registration on your vehicle expired last month. Now what do you do?

I can’t tell you how to solve your financial issues; I have enough problems with my own. I can tell you that you do not want to fall into this next category, which basically is providing false evidence of registration.

What is false evidence of registration? For the most part, it is when someone takes the registration sticker assigned to another vehicle and places it on their vehicle to make it appear that their registration is current. It can also be someone who counterfeits their own registration sticker by making something that looks like the current registration sticker that would make your license plates current.

The vehicle code is very specific when it come to this issue; 4463. (a) A person who, with intent to prejudice, damage, or defraud, commits any of the following acts is guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years, or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year: Alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a certificate of ownership, registration card, certificate, license, license plate, device… and the section goes on and on basically stating that if you mess with anything designed to provide evidence of current registration, you are in deep grease.

In addition to the fact that you can be arrested, your vehicle gets to go to car jail also. Registration of one’s vehicle is no different than paying any of your other obligations. Don’t pay your utility bill and you’re reading this column in the dark with a flashlight.

Your vehicle is important and necessary to you for many reasons. If it looks like there is going to be a problem with registering your vehicle, contact your local DMV so that they may be able to offer some temporary solutions. Non-operation certificates are sometimes an option, but they are just that; non-operation status until you can properly register your vehicle.

Now that you do have your vehicle registered properly, there were two license plates issued to someone, sometime for that vehicle. Both of these license plates are required to be affixed to your vehicle. One in the front and the one with the registration stickers on the rear. This is probably one of the most hated laws by Corvette, Porsche or any other sports style vehicle owners. That front license plate just isn’t cool. But it is required.

Regarding the rear license plate; License plates shall at all times be securely fastened to the vehicle for which they are issued so as to prevent the plates from swinging, shall be mounted in a position so as to be clearly visible, and shall be maintained in a condition so as to be clearly legible.

The rear license plate shall be mounted not less than 12 inches nor more than 60 inches from the ground, and the front license plate shall be mounted not more than 60 inches from the ground. Lets not forget this one more vehicle code section pertaining to the rear license plate; Either the tail lamp or a separate lamp shall be so constructed and placed as to illuminate with a white light the rear license plate during darkness and render it clearly legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear. When the rear license plate is illuminated by a lamp other than a required tail lamp, the two lamps shall be turned on or off only by the same control switch at all times.

Before I forget, for those of you who are classic car enthusiasts, please do not go out and get a new set of those old style yellow with black numbers or black with yellow numbers or any other combinations remanufactured because your original ones are all rusted out or damaged. You could fall under the first category I spoke of on false evidence of registration. I know all of these rules may seem overwhelming, but they are the rules and my role at this point is to remind everyone what the rules are. How you play by these rules is your call.

Hi Monty, I always read your informative articles and have really learned a great deal from them. I am not sure if you would be a good forum for this but not sure where to go otherwise. There is a new law that is often being reported in the media as slow down and move over. And I emphasize the “and” part. The implication is that if you come onto an emergency vehicle you “must” not only slow down but move over hopefully safely. But what is not clear – and I am sure the law did not intend to mislead – is the fact that if you cannot move over, you are only required to slow down, i.e., not stop on the freeway until you can move over. The media is presenting this wrong. It should be emphasized move over if safe OR slow down or both. Can you address this and somehow get the word out so some fool like me does not come to a stop on a busy freeway?

Back in November, I addressed this issue, knowing that the first of the year, Caltrans vehicles were going to be included in the new legislation. That being said, you are completely correct in what you know to be the law and the intent of the law. A person driving a vehicle on a freeway approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying emergency lights, or a stationary tow truck that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, shall approach with due caution and, before passing in a lane immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle or tow truck, absent any other direction by a peace officer, proceed to do one of the following:

(1) Make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle or tow truck with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, if practicable and not prohibited by law.

(2) If the maneuver described in paragraph (1) would be unsafe or impracticable, slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.

I don’t believe that the media is intentionally misleading the public. I think that it is just a matter of people understanding the intent. The intent is that if you see a law enforcement vehicle, Caltrans vehicle or tow truck on the side of the road with its lights on, don’t panic, just move over, if it’s safe to do so and if not, be careful as you pass by, and slow if necessary so that no one is in harm’s way. As you are passing the scene of whatever caused you this concern, sit back appreciate the fact that you were not part of that incident and enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.
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Monty Hight
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.
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1 Response

  1. Avatar Larry says:

    Monty: I thought you were retiring you column. Happy to see you back. Great photo you used in your column.