(1) Design. All license plates may be obtained by the director from the metal working plant of a state correctional facility or from any source in accordance with existing state of Washington purchasing procedures. License plates:
(a) May vary in background, color, and design;
(b) Must be legible and clearly identifiable as a Washington state license plate;
(c) Must designate the name of the state of Washington without abbreviation;
(d) Must be treated with fully reflectorized materials designed to increase visibility and legibility at night;
(e) Must be of a size and color and show the registration period as determined by the director; and
(f) Before July 1, 2010, may display a symbol or artwork approved by the former special license plate review board and the legislature. Beginning July 1, 2010, special license plate series approved by the department and enacted into law by the legislature may display a symbol or artwork approved by the department.
(2) Exceptions to reflectorized materials. License plates issued before January 1, 1968, are not required to be treated with reflectorized materials.
(3) Dealer license plates. License plates issued to a dealer must contain an indication that the license plates have been issued to a vehicle dealer.
(4)(a) Furnished. The director shall furnish to all persons making satisfactory application for a vehicle registration:
(i) Two identical license plates each containing the license plate number; or
(ii) One license plate if the vehicle is a trailer, semitrailer, camper, moped, collector vehicle, horseless carriage, or motorcycle.
(b) The director may adopt types of license plates to be used as long as the license plates are legible.
(5)(a) Display. License plates must be:
(i) Attached conspicuously at the front and rear of each vehicle if two license plates have been issued;
(ii) Attached to the rear of the vehicle if one license plate has been issued;
(iii) Kept clean and be able to be plainly seen and read at all times; and
(iv) Attached in a horizontal position at a distance of not more than four feet from the ground.
(b) The Washington state patrol may grant exceptions to this subsection if the body construction of the vehicle makes compliance with this section impossible.
(6) Change of license classification. A person who has altered a vehicle that makes the current license plate or plates invalid for the vehicle's use shall:
(a) Surrender the current license plate or plates to the department, county auditor or other agent, or subagent appointed by the director;
(b) Apply for a new license plate or plates; and
(c) Pay a change of classification fee required under RCW 46.17.310.
(7) Unlawful acts. It is unlawful to:
(a) Display a license plate or plates on the front or rear of any vehicle that were not issued by the director for the vehicle;
(b) Display a license plate or plates on any vehicle that have been changed, altered, or disfigured, or have become illegible;
(c) Use holders, frames, or other materials that change, alter, or make a license plate or plates illegible. License plate frames may be used on license plates only if the frames do not obscure license tabs or identifying letters or numbers on the plates and the license plates can be plainly seen and read at all times;
(d) Operate a vehicle unless a valid license plate or plates are attached as required under this section;
(e) Transfer a license plate or plates issued under this chapter between two or more vehicles without first making application to transfer the license plates. A violation of this subsection (7)(e) is a traffic infraction subject to a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars. Any law enforcement agency that determines that a license plate or plates have been transferred between two or more vehicles shall confiscate the license plate or plates and return them to the department for nullification along with full details of the reasons for confiscation. Each vehicle identified in the transfer will be issued a new license plate or plates upon application by the owner or owners and the payment of full fees and taxes; or
(f) Fail, neglect, or refuse to endorse the registration certificate and deliver the license plate or plates to the purchaser or transferee of the vehicle, except as authorized under this section.
(8) Transfer. (a) Standard issue license plates follow the vehicle when ownership of the vehicle changes unless the registered owner wishes to retain the license plates and transfer them to a replacement vehicle of the same use. A registered owner wishing to keep standard issue license plates shall pay the license plate transfer fee required under RCW 46.17.200(1)(c) when applying for license plate transfer.
(b) Special license plates and personalized license plates may be treated in the same manner as described in (a) of this subsection unless otherwise limited by law.
(c) License plates issued to the state or any county, city, town, school district, or other political subdivision entitled to exemption as provided by law may be treated in the same manner as described in (a) of this subsection.
(9) Replacement. (a) An owner or the owner's authorized representative shall apply for a replacement license plate or plates if the current license plate or plates assigned to the vehicle have been lost, defaced, or destroyed, or if one or both plates have become so illegible or are in such a condition as to be difficult to distinguish. An owner or the owner's authorized representative may apply for a replacement license plate or plates at any time the owner chooses.
(b) The application for a replacement license plate or plates must:
(i) Be on a form furnished or approved by the director; and
(ii) Be accompanied by the fee required under RCW 46.17.200(1)(a).
(c) The department shall not require the payment of any fee to replace a license plate or plates for vehicles owned, rented, or leased by foreign countries or international bodies to which the United States government is a signatory by treaty.
(10) Periodic replacement. License plates must be replaced periodically to ensure maximum legibility and reflectivity. The department shall:
(a) Use empirical studies documenting the longevity of the reflective materials used to make license plates;
(b) Determine how frequently license plates must be replaced; and
(c) Offer to owners the option of retaining the current license plate number when obtaining replacement license plates for the fee required in RCW 46.17.200(1)(b).
(11) Periodic replacement -- Exceptions. The following license plates are not required to be periodically replaced as required in subsection (10) of this section:
(a) Horseless carriage license plates issued under RCW 46.18.255 before January 1, 1987;
(b) Congressional Medal of Honor license plates issued under RCW 46.18.230;
(c) License plates for commercial motor vehicles with a gross weight greater than twenty-six thousand pounds.
(12) Rules. The department may adopt rules to implement this section.
(13) Tabs or emblems. The director may issue tabs or emblems to be attached to license plates or elsewhere on the vehicle to signify initial registration and renewals. Renewals become effective when tabs or emblems have been issued and properly displayed on license plates.
[2011 c 171 § 46; 2010 c 161 § 422.]
| Intent -- Effective date -- 2011 c 171: See notes following RCW 4.24.210.|
Effective date -- Intent -- Legislation to reconcile chapter 161, Laws of 2010 and other amendments made during the 2010 legislative session -- 2010 c 161: See notes following RCW 46.04.013.