If you bought your number plates from a reputable source, it is unlikely that your plates are illegal. However, if any of the factors mentioned in this article ring true for your number plates, it may be worth double-checking, just to be sure.
What Factors Make Number Plates Illegal?
In the UK, there are several factors that can make a registration plate, or number plate, illegal. These include:
- Non-compliant font, spacing or size of characters
- Non-compliant colours
- Non-compliant materials
- Obscured or covered plates
- Illuminated plates
- Tampered plates
- Non-compliant format
- Offensive language or misspellings
- Non-standard symbols or designs
Non-compliant font, spacing or size of characters
The DVLA specifies the font, spacing and size of characters that must be used on number plates. If the font, spacing or size of characters on a plate does not comply with these specifications, the plate is considered illegal.
The DVLA specifies the colours that must be used on registration plates. The plates must be white at the front and yellow at the rear and characters must be black on a white background at the front and black on a yellow background at the rear. If the colours on a plate do not comply with these specifications, the plate is considered illegal.
The DVLA specifies that registration plates must be made of reflective materials. It is considered illegal if the plate is not made of reflective materials.
Obscured or covered plates
The DVLA specifies that registration plates must not be obscured or covered in any way. If a plate is obscured or covered, it is considered illegal.
The DVLA specifies that registration plates must not be illuminated in any way, except for a white light shone on the rear plate to illuminate the characters. If a plate is illuminated in any other way, it is considered illegal.
The DVLA specifies that registration plates must not be tampered with in any way, such as having the letters or numbers rearranged to spell out a different word or phrase. If a plate has been tampered with, it is considered illegal.
The DVLA specifies the format of registration plates. The format consists of two letters, two numbers and then three letters. It is considered illegal if the plate does not comply with this format.
Offensive language or misspellings
The DVLA prohibits the use of any language or misspellings on registration plates that are considered offensive or abusive.
Non-standard symbols or designs
The DVLA does not approve any registration plates that have any non-standard symbols or designs on them.
It’s important to note that these are just a few examples and it’s always best to check with a legitimate dealer or with the DVLA before purchasing any registration plates to ensure that they are legal.
Examples of Illegal Number Plates in the UK
- Covering or obscuring the plate in any way, even if it is just a frame or cover that hides any part of the plate.
- Illuminating the plate in any way other than a white light shone on the rear plate. Lights can be used to prevent speed traps and other cameras from deciphering the number plate.
- Using a plate with misspellings or offensive language, especially plates that spell out slurs. There are ways to use some impolite language which you can explore in the article - Funny or Rude Number Plates.
- Tampering with the number plate in any way. This can include rearranging the letters or numbers in any way, or even using a sticker or paint to change the appearance of the plate.
- Using a plate that does not follow the correct format. This can mean not having the two letters, two numbers and three letters format, or using a plate that has more or fewer characters than what is allowed.
- Having a number plate with a blue or yellow euro symbol on it, as these symbols are no longer allowed on UK number plates after Brexit.
- Using a plate with any background pattern or design that is not specified by the DVLA, such as a checkered or striped background.
- Using 3D characters that exceed the legal size of 79mm tall and 50mm wide.
- Using non-standard spacing or kerning between letters and numbers is not allowed. There should be 11mm between characters.
- Using any symbols or logo including a GB identifier with the Union flag, a Euro symbol or a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales. Numbers and letters only - no flag or identifier may be used.
- Using a plate that is too small or too big in size. The standard size for a number plate in the UK is 520mm by 111mm.
- Any typeface that is not Charles Wright is considered illegal. Using a font or spacing of characters that is not as specified by the DVLA.
It’s important to note that these are just a few examples, and it’s always best to check with a legitimate dealer or with the DVLA before purchasing any registration plates to ensure that they are legal.
How Do Authorities in The UK Recognize Illegal Number Plates?
In the UK, authorities such as the police and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have several methods for recognizing illegal registration plates, or number plates. Some of these methods include:
- Using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras: These cameras are used to scan the registration plates of passing vehicles and compare them with a database of registered plates. The vehicle can be flagged for further investigation if the camera detects an illegal plate.
- Random spot checks: Authorities may conduct random spot checks on vehicles to ensure that their registration plates are legal. This can include checking the size, font, and spacing of the characters, as well as the overall condition of the plate.
- Receiving tips or complaints: Authorities may receive tips or complaints from members of the public about illegal registration plates. They may then investigate these vehicles to ensure that their plates are legal.
- Use of technology: Some authorities in the UK have access to specialized software that can detect illegal registration plates, such as plates that have been manipulated, altered or obscured.
- Check with the DVLA database: Authorities can also check the registration number with the DVLA database to ensure that the plate is assigned to the specific vehicle and that it is not counterfeit.
It’s important to note that having an illegal registration plate is a criminal offence and can result in fines, points on your license and even a court case. Ensure that your registration plate is legal to avoid any legal issues.
Whichever number plate you choose, ensure that it is in line with the above-mentioned rules and regulations to stay out of trouble. The best way to stay out of hot water is to buy your number plates from a reputable dealer.