5200. When two license plates are issued by the department for a
vehicle, they shall be attached to the vehicle for which they were
issued, one in the front and the other in the rear. When one license
plate is issued for use upon a vehicle, it shall be attached to the
5201. 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 and shall be mounted in a position 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, except as
(a) The rear license plate on a tow truck may be mounted on the
left-hand side of the mast assembly at the rear of the cab of the
vehicle, not less than 12 inches nor more than 90 inches from the
(b) The rear license plate on a tank vehicle hauling hazardous
waste, as defined in Section 25117 of the Health and Safety Code, or
asphalt material may be mounted not less than 12 inches nor more than
90 inches from the ground.
(c) The rear license plate on a truck tractor may be mounted at
the rear of the cab of the vehicle, not less than 12 inches nor more
than 90 inches from the ground.
(d) The rear license plate of a vehicle designed by the
manufacturer for the collection and transportation of garbage,
rubbish, or refuse and which is used regularly for the collection and
transportation of that material by any person or governmental entity
employed to collect, transport, and dispose of garbage, rubbish, or
refuse may be mounted not less than 12 inches nor more than 90 inches
from the ground.
(e) No covering shall be used on license plates except as follows:
(1) The installation of a cover over a lawfully parked vehicle to
protect it from the weather and the elements does not constitute a
violation of this subdivision. Any peace officer or other regularly
salaried employee of a public agency designated to enforce laws,
including local ordinances, relating to the parking of vehicles may
temporarily remove so much of the cover as is necessary to inspect
any license plate, tab, or indicia of registration on a vehicle.
(2) The installation of a license plate security cover is not a
violation of this subdivision if the device does not obstruct or
impair the recognition of the license plate information, including,
but not limited to, the issuing state, license plate number, and
registration tabs, and the cover is limited to the area directly over
the top of the registration tabs. No portion of a license plate
security cover shall rest over the license plate number.
(f) No casing, shield, frame, border, or other device that
obstructs or impairs the reading or recognition of a license plate by
a remote emission sensing device, as specified in Sections 44081 and
44081.6 of the Health and Safety Code, shall be installed on, or
affixed to, a vehicle.
5202. Every license plate issued by this State or any other
jurisdiction within or without the United States shall remain
attached during the period of its validity to the vehicle for which
it is issued while being operated within this State or during the
time the vehicle is being held for sale in this State, or until such
time as a vehicle with special or identification plates is no longer
entitled to such plates and no person shall operate, nor shall an
owner knowingly permit to be operated, upon any highway any vehicle
unless the license plate is so attached. Special permits issued in
lieu of plates shall be attached and displayed on the vehicle for
which issued during the period of their validity.
5203. This chapter does not apply to plates which the department
pursuant to law has ordered to be surrendered, transferred to another
vehicle, or removed.
5204. (a) Except as provided by subdivisions (b) and (c), a tab
shall indicate the year of expiration and a tab shall indicate the
month of expiration. Current month and year tabs shall be attached
to the rear license plate assigned to the vehicle for the last
preceding registration year in which license plates were issued, and,
when so attached, the license plate with the tabs shall, for the
purposes of this code, be deemed to be the license plate, except that
truck tractors, and commercial motor vehicles having a declared
gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more, shall display the
current month and year tabs upon the front license plate assigned to
the truck tractor or commercial motor vehicle. Vehicles that fail to
display current month and year tabs or display expired tabs are in
violation of this section.
(b) The requirement of subdivision (a) that the tabs indicate the
year and the month of expiration does not apply to fleet vehicles
subject to Article 9.5 (commencing with Section 5300) or vehicles
defined in Section 468.
(c) Subdivision (a) does not apply when proper application for
registration has been made pursuant to Section 4602 and the new
indicia of current registration have not been received from the
(d) This section is enforceable against any motor vehicle that is
driven, moved, or left standing upon a highway, or in an offstreet
public parking facility, in the same manner as provided in
subdivision (a) of Section 4000.
5205. The department may make appropriate rules and regulations for
the use and display of stickers or devices issued in lieu of license
plates, and shall publish a summary thereof.
5205.5. (a) For the purposes of implementing Section 21655.9,
beginning July 1, 2000, and through December 31, 2003, the
department, in consultation with the Department of the California
Highway Patrol, shall make available for issuance, for a fee
determined by the department to be sufficient to reimburse the
department for actual costs incurred pursuant to this section,
distinctive decals, labels, or other identifiers for vehicles that
meet California's ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) standard for
exhaust emissions and the federal ILEV evaporative emission standard,
as defined in Part 88 (commencing with Section 88.101-94) of Title
40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, in a manner that clearly
distinguishes them from other vehicles.
(b) For the purposes of implementing Section 21655.9, beginning
January 1, 2004, and through December 31, 2007, the department shall
make available for issuance, for a fee determined by the department
to be sufficient to reimburse the department for actual costs
incurred pursuant to this section, distinctive decals, labels, and
other identifiers for vehicles that meet California's super ultra-low
emission vehicle (SULEV) standard for exhaust emissions and the
federal inherently low-emission vehicle (ILEV) evaporative emission
standard, as defined in Part 88 (commencing with Section 88.101-94)
of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, in a manner that
clearly distinguishes them from other vehicles.
(c) The department shall include a summary of the provisions of
this section on each motor vehicle registration renewal notice, or on
a separate insert, if space is available and the summary can be
included without incurring additional printing or postage costs.
(d) The Governor may remove individual high-occupancy vehicle
(HOV) lanes, or portions of those lanes, during periods of peak
congestion from the ILEV access provisions provided in subdivisions
(a) and (b), following a finding by the Department of Transportation
(1) The lane, or portion thereof, exceeds a level of service C, as
discussed in subdivision (b) of Section 65089 of the Government
(2) The operation or projected operation of the vehicles described
in subdivisions (a) and (b) in these lanes, or portions thereof,
will significantly increase congestion.
The finding also shall demonstrate the infeasibility of
alleviating the congestion by other means, including, but not limited
to, reducing the use of the lane by noneligible vehicles, further
increasing vehicle occupancy, or adding additional capacity.
(e) For purposes of subdivisions (a) and (b), the Department of
the California Highway Patrol shall design and specify the placement
of the decal, label, or other identifier on the vehicle. Each decal,
label, or other identifier issued for a vehicle shall display a
unique number, which number shall be printed on, or affixed to, the
(f) If the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, serving as the
Bay Area Toll Authority, grants toll-free and reduced-rate passage on
toll bridges under its jurisdiction to any vehicle pursuant to
Section 30101.8 of the Streets and Highways Code, it shall also grant
the same toll-free and reduced-rate passage to vehicles displaying a
valid ULEV or SULEV identifier issued by the department pursuant to
subdivisions (a) and (b).
(g) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1,
2008, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted
statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2008, deletes or extends
5206. Vehicles for which weight fees are paid on a partial year
basis shall display a certificate or insignia issued by the
department, which shall state the end of the period for which the
vehicle is licensed.