Fictitious License Plates in Arizona

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Things To Consider After Receiving A Fictitious Plates Ticket

First things first

Calendar the court date on your fictitious license plate ticket. This is the arraignment date. You (our your attorney) will need to take action with the court on or before that date. If you miss that court date, the court will say that you failed to appear, issue a bench warrant for your arrest, suspend your driving privileges, and usually add a second criminal charge for failing to appear.

Decide If You Want An Attorney

If you want an attorney, sooner is better than later. Most courts will only allow a case to go on for so long. If you delay on hiring an attorney, your attorney may not have time to fully investigate your case.

A good attorney can be really helpful. They will:

  • Know the ins and outs of the law
  • Be familiar with the court and judge
  • Have a good working relationship with the prosecutor
  • Be a strong advocate for you
  • Save you time
  • Get the best outcome available.

Give us a call for a free, honest evaluation of your case.

Correct The Plate

When trying to get the best outcome possible, you will be in a much better negotiating position if you can get the fictitious license plate corrected. Get the correct plate on the car, make sure it is correctly registered, and provide proof of that to your attorney.

The Legal Stuff

What Is A Fictitious License Plate?

Fictitious means not real, or not true. A fictitious plate means that something about the plate doesn’t match the vehicle it is on. A license plate can be considered fictitious under a number of circumstances.

The most common situations we see are:

      • The vehicle registration associated with the plate has been revoked or suspended.
      • The registration sticker on the license plate belongs to another vehicle (fictitious tags).
      • The license plate on the vehicle belongs to another vehicle.

The Actual Statute Reads:

“A person is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor who displays or possesses a registration card or license plate knowing it to be fictitious or to have been stolen, canceled, revoked, suspended or altered.”

See A.R.S. 28-2531(B)(1)

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the penalties for a fictitious license plate ticket?

Possible Consequences:

    • Class 2 misdemeanor conviction.
    • Fines up to $750 plus surcharges and court assessments that could nearly double the total fine
    • Up to 4 months in jail.
    • Up to 2 years probation

Likely Consequences:

    • Class 2 misdemeanor conviction.
    • Fines in the $300-$600 range
    • This is not technically a moving violation, so there are no points associated with this violation.

There can also be collateral consequences:

How do we defend against a fictitious license plate ticket?

Correct the plate.

The first step is always correcting the license plate issue. Make sure the car that was displaying the fictitious plate is properly registered and displaying a valid license plate. 

Have a plausible explanation.

Having an explanation as to why there was a fictitious license plate on the car in the first place can be helpful. It isn’t necessarily a legal defense, but it can help. There is a substantial difference between putting a plate from another vehicle on your car because you were trying to do the right thing, and stealing a plate off another car to put on your own.

Argue that you didn’t know the plate was fictitious.

This is an actual legal defense. The statute requires that the driver knew the plate was fictitious. Maybe someone stole your plate and replaced it with another plate and you never noticed. Maybe you have several cars and you inadvertently mixed up the renewal tabs.

Finally, present your background and driving history. 

The driver’s background and driving history can be helpful in achieving a good outcome. Ideally the driver’s record is free from any violations.

Then we try to negotiate an outcome wherein the charge is dismissed or reduced to a civil registration violation with a nominal fine.

What are some reasonable explanations for a fictitious license plate?

The fictitious plate is from another vehicle the defendant owns

Maybe the driver owns more than one vehicle, and there is some impediment to properly registering one of the vehicles. Perhaps there is an emissions issue or a title defect that is holding up the registration. The driver then affixes a license plate from another vehicle onto the unregistered vehicle because they want to drive it. In this case, we can often avoid the criminal charge if the driver gets the unregistered vehicle registered and gets a legitimate license plate on the vehicle. This particular explanation is not technically a legal defense, but when there is not a clear criminal intent, prosecutors are often much more willing to work something out.

Someone else swapped the defendant’s plates without the defendant knowing

Maybe the driver had their license plate stolen and replaced with another plate without their knowledge. I don’t know about you, but I could not tell you what my license plate number is without going out and looking at my car. It could take months or years for a driver to notice that someone had swapped out their license plate. Here again, correcting the situation can go a long way towards favorably resolving the charge.

Can you go to jail for a fictitious license plate conviction?

Technically, yes. The law permits up to 4 months in jail for a fictitious license plate conviction. However, there is no mandatory jail time and in our experience, jail time is extremely unlikely.

How much is the fine for a fictitious license plate ticket?

While the law permits the fine, including surcharges and assessments, to approach $1,500, the actual fine should be much less. We have seen fines as low as $250 for a fictitious plates conviction.

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