A new law regulating Arizona license plates set to go into effect Jan. 1 will require all motorists to completely display their rear license plates or face a fine averaging $135.
The law prohibits any obstructions.
This means no part of any lettering on a license plate - such as the word "Arizona" - a plate's numbers or registration sticker may be obstructed by plastic or metal frames that often bear a sports fan's favorite team or serves as a small billboard for an auto dealership.
The frame also must be securely fastened to the vehicle so it does not swing, and attached at least 12 inches from the ground, according to the law.
The law, which passed in 2006, will affect 6.6 million registered vehicles in Arizona that require a license plate, including motorcycles and boat trailers, said Cydney DeModica, spokeswoman for the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division.
A license plate frame violation in Mesa will cost a motorist $127.50 and one in Scottsdale will cost $120, according to information from police departments in those cities.
"There is a cost-free remedy to this - take a screwdriver and remove your frame," DeModica said. "But wouldn't a new frame make a great stocking stuffer for Christmas?"
To help motorists better understand the forthcoming law, workers at MVD bureaus are providing pamphlets informing customers renewing their registration about the change.
"How often does someone look at the back of their car or their license plate?," DeModica said. "About the only time someone looks closely at their plate is when they renew their registration."
The law has caused mixed emotions among frame manufacturers and representatives of automobile dealer associations who say many auto dealers may have to order new dies for the frames.
"This law can cause some problems for auto dealers," said Kevin Strand, president of California-based Strand Art Company, which sells millions of license plate frames a year.
Although Strand said his company already manufacturers license plate frames that conform to Arizona's laws, many auto dealers could have to order new dies for the frames, he said.
DeModica said that most auto dealers already have switched to license plate frames that will conform with state laws.
There are 260 auto dealers throughout Arizona and 160 in the Valley, according to Knox Ramsey, president of the Valley Automobile Dealers Association.