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Do All Cars Need to Have License Plates?

Before his death in 2011, Steve Jobs was frequently spotted driving around Silicon Valley in his Mercedes SL55 AMG -- without license plates. Many people assumed that he was just another big shot who didn’t have to follow the rules. But the truth was that the Apple co-founder was taking advantage of a loophole in California regulations that gave drivers a grace period of six months from the date of purchase to put a numbered plate on the back of a car. Jobs leased a new Mercedes every six months, so he was never legally required to display a plate.

Closing the license plate loophole:

  • At the time, the California Department of Motor Vehicles allowed new car owners to drive with only a temporary permit on the windshield. A law going into effect in 2019 will require all drivers to display numbered plates.
  • The new requirement stems from the 2013 hit-and-run death of Michael Bonanomi. Police were unable to identify the offending driver, who escaped in a car without tags.
  • California expects to collect about $19 million USD a year in bridge and road tolls that the state had previously missed out on because of unidentifiable cars on the road.
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