TRENTON – In an effort to combat the growing abuse of temporary license plates, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez that would create greater regulatory oversight for licensed motor vehicle dealers who provide temporary license plates. The bill would establish increased penalties for offenders, empower the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to more strongly penalize dealers who peddle fraudulent temporary tags, provide for the suspension or revocation of licenses for dealers who repeatedly offend, and increase the security measures required for temporary license plates.
“Unfortunately, New Jersey has become a leading state for the sale of temporary license plates. Bad actors have exploited the system to make an easy profit and avoid accountability, jeopardizing public safety,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “We cannot ignore this growing problem. In order to combat these organized schemes we need more oversight and stronger penalties. This bill is a first step toward ending the fraudulent sale of temporary license plates that will empower the MVC to crack down on shady dealers and criminals who benefit from them.”
An April 2023 expose from Streetsblog and the New Jersey Monitor detailed the temporary license plate black market in New York City and its relationship with New Jersey. The investigation uncovered that at least 109 dealers in Georgia and New Jersey have been caught violating temporary license plate regulations, printing hundreds of thousands of likely fraudulent temporary plates. Many of these temporary plates are used by criminals to mask their identities in an attempt to evade tolls or law enforcement, and they have been connected to hit-and-runs, robberies, as well as shootings.
“Although the use of fraudulent temporary license plates is not an entirely new problem, they have become far more widespread since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” added Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester), “Recent reporting has shone a light on the full extent of this issue, and the threat it poses to the public. Journalists have done their part, and now it is time for us lawmakers to do ours to end this abuse of our state’s laws.”
Under the bill, S-4084, licensed motor vehicle dealers would be subject to greater application and security requirements in order to issue temporary license plates to buyers. Dealers would be required to keep record of a copy of the purchaser’s driver’s license, a copy of the vehicle’s title, proof of sale, and proof of insurance for each temporary license plate requested. Temporary license plates would be required to be printed on paper that utilizes enhanced security features to prevent forgery or duplication.
Penalties for licensed motor vehicle dealers who violate the strengthened provisions would also be increased. Violators would be liable for a $2,500 penalty for a first offense, and $5,000 for subsequent offenses. It would be a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000, or both, to knowingly produce, sell, offer, or expose for sale a temporary license plate or registration obtained by providing false information or through forgery, counterfeit, or other alteration.
The bill would also establish a disorderly persons offense to knowingly exhibit, display, or produce such a fraudulent temporary license plate or registration, and a petty disorderly persons offense to possess one obtained through fraudulent means. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by up to six months imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A petty disorderly persons offense is punishable by up to 30 days of imprisonment, a fine of up to $500, or both. In addition, the Chief Administrator of the MVC would be permitted to suspend or revoke the dealer license of dealers who commit multiple violations or are convicted of a criminal violation.
The bill was advanced in a unanimous vote.