Home > Other Offences > Number Plate Offences and Punishments

Number Plate Offences and Punishments

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 19 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Number Plate Offences Notice Of Intended

Vehicle number plates should be set out and displayed in accordance with the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001. If these regulations are not followed this is an offence and fines can be applied.

Vehicle Number Plates in the UK

There are strict rules set out that govern the layout, fonts and character specifications used on UK number plates. There are also general rules laid out on how number plates must be displayed. If these rules are not followed then it can be seen as an offence. General rules will include:

  • Number plates must be lit during the evenings
  • Registration marks must be readable and not covered by dirt
  • Vehicles must have number plates fixed to them
  • Number plates must be laid out in the correct size, colouring, font and spacing
  • Owners cannot alter or rearrange numbers and lettering on their number plates
  • Plates should follow the British Standard for number plates including the trademark of the plate supplier
  • No other images should be used on number plates except approved images such as the Euro flag and other flags
  • A non reflective border is optional

Punishments for Number Plate Offences

Incorrect number plate offences can lead to fines of up to £1000 for each specific number plate offence. It may be the case that a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) will be affixed to car, for instance in a public car park, with a fixed penalty violation. There is no requirement for an NIP to be provided for number plate offences. There are sometimes defences available for this type of offence but misleading or lying to the courts can lead to larger fines. Police cameras are regularly used to catch drivers with dirty numbers plates or plates with incorrect spacing.

Defences for Number Plate Offences

The police can make mistakes and this sometimes occurs when police cameras are used to capture number plate offences. Drivers who dispute the incorrect number plates can use photographic evidence of their number plates including specific measurements. Defending this type of offence will often mean bringing in experts depending on the offence. Legal advice from a solicitor should always be taken as to the best course of defence for this type of motoring offence.

Number Plate Rules for Motorcycles

Motorcycles will of course have number plate regulations that differ from vehicles such as cars. Number plates must be displayed at the rear of the motorcycle. Two line number plates are standard for motorcycles registered after 1st September 2001; motorcycles registered before this date can display a three line plate. It is against the law to display a one line plate on a motorcycle regardless of the date of registration.

Police Cameras and Number Plates

There has been controversy over police cameras incorrectly reading number plates obscured by dirt. According to the AA Motoring Trust the automatic number plate recognition system used by the police is unable to read plates that are dirty or have the incorrect spacing. The police cameras can trigger spot checks if number plate lettering is obscured by dirt. These cameras read the plates as incorrect and alert roadside police who will stop vehicles. In the past the police may have turned a blind eye to dirty number plates obscuring letters and numbers but they are now more likely to prosecute.

Number plate offences can be seen as a serious offence especially if the plates have been deliberately tampered with. Deliberately tampering with a number plate could lead to the more serious offence of perverting the course of justice. Number plate offences can lead to hefty fines and even community service punishments depending on the seriousness of the offence. Drivers who do dispute number plate offences should seek legal advice before proceeding to court action. More information on the British Standards for number plates can be obtained from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

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[Add a Comment]
Tony - Your Question:
What can be done. A car that is parked next door to me is not rid worthy to me. It is dripping something from the rear dif for the last year. It never moves the owner owns the house also but does not live there. A few times over the last few year it hasn't been txted or mot. The main problem for me is the reg doesn't match the vehicle. There has been a few cars there over the years with the same reg.

Our Response:
Complain to the police about this.
NoPenaltyPoints - 20-Nov-17 @ 2:33 PM
What can be done. A car that is parked next door to me is not rid worthy to me. It is dripping something from the rear dif for the last year. It never moves the owner owns the house also but does not live there. A few times over the last few year it hasn'tbeen txted or mot. The main problem for me is the reg doesn'tmatch the vehicle. There has been a few cars there over the years with the same reg.
Tony - 19-Nov-17 @ 2:23 PM
Benny. I work in the control room for one of the east midlands police forces. We work the same way in which this would of been logged. We can not prosecute unless they are driving and as such, we would only ask them to clean it. The police are extremely busy and short staffed. While we take every incident seriously; we do need to prioritise. I am sorry that you felt the police were not interested. In reality it is not always possible
Charlie_bear - 17-Nov-17 @ 6:24 PM
Dove87 - Your Question:
Hi, need some advice. Tonight I was driving home on dark roads so to no surprise full beam were needed at times.A transit van stayed right behind me with his full beam lights on for a good 10 mins solid. Couldn't see his reg at this point, so when he eventually over took me. I got my son to take note of the reg at the back of his vehicle.He was pulling a trailer but being tail gated closely by an older Ford fiesta like 90s version. I checked the reg on the Sorn when I got home and it didn't match the description as it was a red transit van. But seems registered as a blue mitsubishi. Is this normal? Or why might this be?

Our Response:
Have you reported your suspicions to the police. We don't know why the numbers would differ (sometimes drivers don't update their trailer number plates when they borrow them - which would mean they don't match the vehicle)
NoPenaltyPoints - 30-Oct-17 @ 1:49 PM
Hi, need some advice. Tonight I was driving home on dark roads so to no surprise full beam were needed at times. A transit van stayed right behind me with his full beam lights on for a good 10 mins solid. Couldn't see his reg at this point, so when he eventually over took me. I got my son to take note of the reg at the back of his vehicle. He was pulling a trailer but being tail gated closely by an older Ford fiesta like 90s version. I checked the reg on the Sorn when I got home and it didn't match the description as it was a red transit van. But seems registered as a blue mitsubishi. Is this normal? Or why might this be?
Dove87 - 29-Oct-17 @ 2:19 AM
I was following a car today, dodgy spacing to achive what they wanted, fair enough. Then when we ended up parked in the same place I checked the plate online to try to figure out what it should actually be, nothing came up for a dozen or so searches and I finally found out through trial and error that he was using a D instead of an O on the plate in order to spell what he wanted. Funny what you can get away with it seems.
Mary - 28-Sep-17 @ 5:13 PM
Any help just been hit by car with private plates on it but when asked to confirm the other drivers details the reg plates did not match I have told police and they came back and said they purchased private plate from DVLA but had just put them on car without paying to have them reg to car ie £80 assignment fee nor inform insurance company of change in reg of car I have been told by police that the car is not insured in this case and started to claim from MIB but the other driver has emailed my insurance company asking to investigate the RTC to which they have I have contacted the other drivers insurance company to see if they had insurance to which they said yes so who is correct here the Police who say Nope or his ins who say Yes any help would be great. I would say the police are correct as details do not match the car cos as the run reg plate the old plate has and the plate they are driving about in say No
huion 2017 - 2-Sep-17 @ 3:23 PM
I have a private plate with my initials on it. Correctly spaced, 100% legal. It really annoys me when I see illigally spaced plates, and the ones that really gets me going is tiny plates on motor bikes. My neighbor is a DCI and has a bright red Ducati, and his plate has 999 in it... the whole plate is about 12cm wide and 4cm tall... why ????
Tyke - 1-Aug-17 @ 11:42 AM
The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 also require display of the British Standard number - Schedule 2: "1.The plate must be made of retroreflecting material which, as regards its construction, colour and other qualities, complies with the requirements of .....the British Standard specification for retroreflecting number plates published on 15 January 1998 under number BS AU 145d(1)....and which.....is marked with the number (or such other information as is necessary to permit identification) of that standard or specification." What a farce.The plate I bought from Halfords (I showed the V5) a few years ago for my trailer only has the registration numbers, nothing else, no makers number, no postcode, nothing.
davek - 22-Jun-17 @ 10:48 PM
NoLicenceplate - Your Question:
Is it a criminal offence to drive on public roads when you have deliberately removed your licence plates at the back and front

Our Response:
It's a civil offence for which you can be fined up to £1000.
NoPenaltyPoints - 25-Apr-17 @ 11:35 AM
Is it a criminal offence to drive on public roads when you have deliberately removed your licence plates at the back and front
NoLicenceplate - 23-Apr-17 @ 8:50 PM
I just called the local police to report a neighbour's filthy number plate illegible from just 5 m away. It has been like that for 2 months. Police operator not at all interested, suggested I go and tell him to clean it. I said if I did that, I would get beaten up. Police operator told me she could note it but would take no action. This is an offence under the road traffic act, but the police are clearly not interested in enforcing the law. Probably too busy guarding Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy.
Benny - 19-Apr-17 @ 5:43 PM
i am a hgv tramper driver and i'm away from monday to friday. on monday i parked my car outside work as usual my reg displays C.MO2GAM. it sould by law show CMO2 GAM.I retured on friday to find a ticket of £100 on my windscreen. question is by law don't you need to be driving? or in fact just being sat in the drivers seat for the ticket to be issued?i really want to contest this in court within 28 days,can anybody help?
morgatron logistics - 18-Feb-17 @ 4:56 PM
Is the fine £100 for incorrect plates. Can you get 3 points for this or no
Huzzy - 10-Feb-17 @ 10:36 PM
The police in Scotland seem far worse than in England. I've had 9 points in Scotland in 12 months I've been working here. I've never had any points in the previous 20 years of driving. I can honestly say i will only think negative of the underhand tactics the Scottish police use to generate cash. I would say I don't like the police, as every time i've needed them (burglary, theft) they have never been there or they have been unable to do anything (waste of my taxes). Yet you stray over the speed limit and one of the 2000 hidden cameras in mobile vans or a copper stood on a random street with a gun will surely get you and pay for his next payrise. The police must hear the quote " why aren't you out catching real criminals" a million times throughout their careers. You'd have thought they might have taken something away from it by now and actually started to catch some. The problem is, the real criminals are the police! CORRUPT!
RBLNOCAUSE - 29-Jan-17 @ 2:56 AM
Top and bottom of it is the justice system is only their to punish those who occasionally flirt on the edges of some mildly vague rule, developed for additional cash raising purposes such as parking fines, speeding tickets and in this case number plates. The police will pull you and fine you, as like most public sector organisations now, they have to be 'productive' which means catch normally law abiding people because they do not know the rules that well. The reasons the rules aren't always followed too strictly is because their is often no real malicious intent to commit a crime. The real criminals however do know the rules because they are trying to avoid them or in most cases aren't bothered about the consequences. Hence why Dear Old Edith gets 2 years for forgetting a tax return but some bag head who's committing crime everyday he's out of prison will get 2-3 weeks for every offence.The police are weak and know Joe Soap will just pay the fine and have a grumble.
RBLNOCAUSE - 29-Jan-17 @ 2:44 AM
Hi, I've just bought new plates. Hypothetically, say it's AB12 CDE. Can I have plates on my car in this way: AB12CD E I've been looking online but all the he threads are very old and I'm not sure if legislation has changed etc. This forum seems to have questions that have been quite recently. Many thanks. LC
LC - 13-Jan-17 @ 6:46 PM
Hi, My names Ahsan and my initials are AHC. I found a plate I like; AH54 NHC. Would it be possible to get the plates printed as AH54N HC or would that become illegal?
Habzeh - 25-Dec-16 @ 11:19 AM
Ray - Your Question:
I just bought a set of plates online and took up teh offer of having a personalised badge on the left side showing my football club and county. The reg lettering and spacing was standard. I asked during the process if this was legal - they didn't answer that but just sent the plates. I phoned DVLA to check before fitting and they've said they're illegal. £40 in the bin.

Our Response:
They've given you false information, send them back for a refund as they are effectively faulty/not fit for purpose.
NoPenaltyPoints - 25-Nov-16 @ 2:13 PM
I just bought a set of plates online and took up teh offer of having a personalised badge on the left side showing my football club and county. The reg lettering and spacing was standard. I asked during the process if this was legal - they didn't answer that but just sent the plates.I phoned DVLA to check before fitting and they've said they're illegal. £40 in the bin.
Ray - 24-Nov-16 @ 12:36 PM
Law on tinted plates .. well put it this way I got stopped and fined £100 in partners car for having tinted plates even thou they don't have a penalty code for they fined me for spacing on his plate !!
Mandyg72 - 28-Sep-16 @ 2:35 PM
I'm in the process of importing a car from Japan that will arrive in Southampton. Can I drive it from the docks straight to a pre-booked MOT without a number plate? There are many conflicting responses to this on Internet forums, and I can't find anything on the DVLA website that will give me an answer! Thanks!
Giles - 26-Sep-16 @ 3:25 PM
Took my Sisters car for an MOT, Mr clutch said the plate was illegal spacing and wanted £20 for new plates or it would fail. Hour later a courier turns up with new plates (made by a professional number plate firm not a car accessory shop). They were identical to the ones on the car... I said I wouldn't pay for the new plates as they were the same .... long story short car passed MOT on old plates, it appears some letter and number mixes look incorrectly spaced
Bean63 - 17-Sep-16 @ 3:09 PM
Victor Mildew - Your Question:
A second-hand car sales garage local to us parks several vehicles for sale on the A6 trunk road outside their showroom with number plates on them 'WINDY MINI' front and back. Surely this is illegal when actually parked on the highway? As I walked past a couple of days ago hey presto a bobby was walking towards me with a PCSO so I asked if I was right. Talk about evasive! Started off with 'it's not actually being driven', then went on to 'nothing to do with us, contact the DVLA', when I asked how I could report a car that has no identification on it as it is concealed I was accused of being lairy! Clearly the local constabulary have no interest.where should I go from here?

Our Response:
If they are on the garage forecourt off the road,they do not have to display their registrations and can be test driven on trade plates. If the vehicles are on the actual highway then contact the DVLA - give the name and address of the dealer.
NoPenaltyPoints - 9-Sep-16 @ 11:34 AM
A second-hand car sales garage local to us parks several vehicles for sale on the A6 trunk road outside their showroom with number plates on them 'WINDY MINI' front and back. Surely this is illegal when actually parked on the highway?As I walked past a couple of days ago hey presto a bobby was walking towards me with a PCSO so I asked if I was right. Talk about evasive! Started off with 'it's not actually being driven', then went on to 'nothing to do with us, contact the DVLA', when I asked how I could report a car that has no identification on it as it is concealed I was accused of being lairy! Clearly the local constabulary have no interest.......where should I go from here?
Victor Mildew - 8-Sep-16 @ 10:31 AM
I had my personalised plate for 2 years and was spaced incorrectly. No problems with the plate whatsoever until one day after my wife had done a 12 hour shift at the hospital got pulled over at 7am in the morning by a real wannabe. He told her the plates were illegal, put her in the back of his police car and proceeded to preach about the illegality of the number plates. She was distraught having never been in trouble with the police before and was sent on her way with a £100 fine. Safe to say the whole sorry incident still touches a nerve with her after 2 years and you can imagine the grief I got from her later that day. Funny how with my incorrectly spaced number plate, the local speed camera had no problem reading my number plate when I went past it a little too fast !!!
Shorty - 20-Aug-16 @ 11:06 PM
I was going vinus more siliguri.a civic police has stay me.he want my paper. I give my dl,pollutation, blue book and licence.my all paper is ok.but a police fine me rs 100.because my bike's front number plate's some part was broken. I want to know this is right or wrong.
chandra - 19-Aug-16 @ 11:02 AM
Cw - Your Question:
Would shining infrared light on the numberplate count as obstruction? The plate would like be clearly visible to the human eye but obscured to cameras. This seems to conform to all of the rules laid out above but I'm 99% it's illegal. I have no intention of doing this just curious why I can't find a clear answer to its legality online anywhere.

Our Response:
Here's a link to the information Display of Registration Marks for Motor Vehicles - it doesn't specifically mention cameras.
NoPenaltyPoints - 18-Jul-16 @ 12:29 PM
Would shining infrared light on the numberplate count as obstruction? The plate would like be clearly visible to the human eye but obscured to cameras. This seems to conform to all of the rules laid out above but I'm 99% it's illegal. I have no intention of doing this just curious why I can't find a clear answer to its legalityonline anywhere.
Cw - 17-Jul-16 @ 9:41 AM
Mrstone2382 - Your Question:
What is the law on tinted number plates??

Our Response:
No they must be on white background. Here are the rules for number plates in the UK:
Number plates should be -
Made from a reflective material
Display black characters on a white background (front plate)
Display black characters on a yellow background (rear plate)
Not have a background pattern
Characters on a number plate can be 3D.
NoPenaltyPoints - 5-Jul-16 @ 12:03 PM
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