Is Stealing A License Plate A Felony?

License plate theft is a crime that occurs more frequently than one might think. The act of stealing license plates can have serious legal consequences, but the severity of the punishment varies depending on several factors, including jurisdiction and intent. 

In this article, we will delve into whether stealing a license plate constitutes a felony, the legal ramifications associated with it, and measures to prevent such incidents.

What Constitutes License Plate Theft?

License plate theft involves the unauthorized removal of license plates from a vehicle with the intent to use them for fraudulent purposes or to avoid detection while committing other crimes. 

This can include stealing license plates from parked cars, swapping plates between vehicles, or using stolen plates to conceal one’s identity while driving.

Felony or Misdemeanor?

The classification of license plate theft as a felony or misdemeanor largely depends on the laws of the specific jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the crime. 

In many cases, stealing a license plate is considered a misdemeanor offense, particularly if it is an isolated incident without aggravating factors. Certain circumstances can elevate the offense to a felony.

Factors Influencing the Severity of Punishment

Factors Influencing the Severity of Punishment

Several factors influence whether stealing a license plate is treated as a felony or misdemeanor:


The intent behind the theft plays a crucial role in determining the severity of the offense. If the stolen license plates are used for identity theft, fraud, or other criminal activities, the crime is more likely to be considered a felony. Conversely, if the theft is a result of a prank or impulse without any malicious intent, it may be treated as a misdemeanor.

Repeat Offenses

Repeat offenders are often subject to harsher penalties. Individuals who engage in multiple instances of license plate theft or have a history of similar offenses are more likely to face felony charges.

Aggravating Circumstances

Certain aggravating factors can escalate the offense to a felony. For example, if the stolen license plates are used in the commission of a more serious crime, such as robbery or drug trafficking, the perpetrator may be charged with felony theft.

Value of the Plates

Custom/SpecialtyHigher value may escalate theft to felony charges
StandardGenerally lower value, misdemeanor charges common
Market DemandPlates in demand may increase likelihood of theft
Collectible ValueRare or vintage plates may increase severity

Understanding the value of license plates helps assess theft severity and legal consequences.

Legal Ramifications

Legal Ramifications

License plate theft can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges, resulting in penalties such as fines, probation, or even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense and jurisdiction.

Misdemeanor Charges

In cases where license plate theft is classified as a misdemeanor, the offender may face penalties such as fines, probation, community service, or a short jail sentence. They may be required to compensate the victim for any damages or losses incurred as a result of the theft.

Felony Charges

If license plate theft is charged as a felony, the consequences can be significantly more severe. Felony convictions carry longer prison sentences, hefty fines, and may result in a permanent criminal record. Moreover, felony convictions can have lasting repercussions on employment opportunities, housing options, and other aspects of life.

Preventive Measures

Implementing preventive measures can help mitigate the risk of license plate theft and safeguard your vehicle from unauthorized tampering.

Secure Mounting

Properly secure license plates to your vehicle using tamper-resistant screws or bolts, especially if you’re wondering how to get Mexican license plates. This makes it more difficult for thieves to remove them quickly.

Park in Well-Lit Areas

When parking your vehicle, choose well-lit areas with high foot traffic. Thieves are less likely to target vehicles parked in visible locations.

Use Anti-Theft Devices

Consider installing anti-theft devices like license plate locks. They can deter potential thieves and capture evidence in case of theft.

Report Stolen Plates Promptly

If your license plates are stolen, report the theft to law enforcement authorities immediately. This increases the chances of recovering the plates and apprehending the perpetrator.


What are the potential consequences of stealing a license plate?

Stealing a license plate can have varying consequences based on the jurisdiction and circumstances. These consequences may include fines, probation, or even felony charges.

Can stealing license plates lead to identity theft?

Yes, stolen license plates can be used to commit identity theft or other fraudulent activities, making it a serious offense.

How can I protect my license plates from theft?

You can protect your license plates by using tamper-resistant screws and parking in well-lit areas. Installing anti-theft devices and promptly reporting stolen plates to authorities are recommended.


While stealing a license plate may not always be classified as a felony, it is nonetheless a serious offense with legal consequences. The severity of punishment depends on various factors, including the jurisdiction, intent, and circumstances of the crime. 

Individuals can reduce the likelihood of becoming victims or perpetrators of license plate theft by taking preventive measures. Staying informed about the laws governing this crime is also crucial.

The theft of license plates not only violates the law but also compromises public safety and security.

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