Driving on Expired Tags California

So What Are the Consequences of Driving on Expired Tags in California?

A citation issued for “driving on expired tags” in California refers to California Vehicle Code VC 5204(a), which prohibits driving a vehicle without registration tabs: “Current month and year tabs shall be attached to the rear license plate…”.

The consequences for driving on expired tags in California are as follows:

driving on expired tags california
  • $25 base fine plus penalty assessment

A “penalty assessment” is a State tax/ multiplier which equates to roughly 4-5 times the base amount. So a ticket for expired tags in California usually comes to around $100-$200, depending on your circumstances and how the judge decides to sentence your case.

But watch out – a failure to appear in court can turn a simple fix-it ticket into something much worse, as explained below.

Beware: Tickets for Driving on Expired Tags in California Can Pile Up

Maybe you got a ticket for driving on expired tags after you’ve already paid your registration and are simply awaiting your new tags in the mail.

Or maybe the tags have already come in the mail but you keep forgetting to put them on your car.

Whatever the case, an officer has the right to continue citing you each time you’re pulled over until you have paid your registration and the new tags are affixed to your license plate, as the law requires.

The importance of taking care of an expired registration ticket quickly cannot be stressed enough: if you fail to do so, a mountain of tickets can add up to several hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Your Car Can Be Impounded for Driving on Expired Tags in California

If you continue to drive with expired tags in California for a very long time, your car can be impounded, under VC 22651(0)(1). You have 6 months from the date you were first cited for this offense before your car can be impounded for driving with expired tags.

Driving on Expired Tags in California with a Failure to Appear

What often starts out as a small, harmless ticket can quickly snowball out of control. For example, let’s say you got a ticket for expired tags, and you fixed the issue shortly thereafter. Many people think because they corrected the issue, there is nothing further required of them.


appear in court for fix it ticket

If given a traffic ticket under VC 5204(a), you must let the court know you corrected the issue. At the bottom of your citation is a date to appear in court to show your tags are now current.

By this date, you have to show the Court you corrected your expired tags. Often this can be resolved with the court clerk at a traffic court window, without seeing a judge.

But if you fail to appear  on a Los Angeles traffic ticket, meaning you didn’t show proof to the court of your valid tags on or before the date on the bottom of your citation, your case will be sent to GC Services for collections and your fees will jump to around $800. Further, a hold will be placed on your driver’s license until you appear in court.

So what started out as an expired tags violation can quickly turn into a driving with a suspended license offense, which can be charged as a misdemeanor and which also can result in your car getting impounded.

There are also several other negative consequences to paying GC Services, such as:

  • being charged with a misdemeanor failure to appear, which can appear on a criminal background check;
  • points on your DMV record, if you pay GC Services when your ticket was a moving violation;
  • being charged with fines and fees that greatly exceed the original amount, which can be avoided if you handle your traffic ticket in traffic court.

The good news is that all of these potentially negative consequences can be reversed by handling your case in traffic court instead. You don’t want to pay GC Services if you don’t have to.

Get Help from a Los Angeles Traffic Ticket Attorney

My name is Paul Denni, and I’m a Los Angeles traffic ticket attorney. If you’d like a free consultation with me personally to handle your ticket, please contact me by clicking the button below.

Related Articles

Don’t Pay GC Services if You Have a Suspended License

Driving with Expired Registration in California

Driving without Insurance

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