Sometimes a law gets passed that affects the daily life of people, and it gets talked about. Like the game telephone, the original information gets distorted, just slightly each time, and all of a sudden conventional wisdom is that the law says something it doesn’t actually say.
In Georgia, your ability to transfer your license plate tag from one car to another seems to be one of those laws. A law was passed stating that you can transfer your tag from one car to another under certain conditions, and now everyone seems to believe that you can just do that no matter what, without regard to the ‘certain conditions.’
O.C.G.A. 40-2-42 states that the license plate itself, and/or the revalidation decal (that little sticker that you get every year when you pay your ad valorem taxes and reregister your car) shall be transferred from one car to another provided that the new car is owned by the same person who owned the old car, and the car is the same ‘class’ of vehicle. In other words, you can’t transfer your motorcycle tag to your truck, nor can you transfer your car tag to your 18 wheeler. You also can’t transfer your tag to a car that is owned by your husband, daughter, or friend.
But you can’t just transfer the tag. It isn’t enough to unscrew it from one tailgate and affix it to the next. Rather, you still have to let your local motor vehicle tag office let you know you are doing it. There is an application and a $5.00 fee that has to be paid.
You also can’t have two vehicles and just transfer the tag back and forth. You have to “cease to own or operate on the public roads the vehicle for which such plate was originally issued and during the initial registration period for the acquired vehicle. In other words, if you sell the first car, or if you have it up on blocks in the yard, you can transfer the tag. If you are still using the first car, you can’t transfer the tag.
Although it isn’t completely related, this code section also says what happens if you jointly own a car with someone who passes away. If “the registered owner of a jointly owned motor vehicle is deceased, the license plate issued for the motor vehicle may, upon appropriate application and payment of fees, be transferred to the surviving owner’s name, provided that the surviving owner acquires a new certificate of title under subsection (d) or paragraph (1) of subsection (e) of Code Section 40-3-34 and makes the payment of appropriate ad valorem taxes.” What this means in plain English is that if you and your wife, for example, own your car jointly, and your wife passes away, you don’t necessarily have to go through probate court to get the car registered in your own name. You just have to get the title in your own name and pay the appropriate ad valorem taxes.
License plates are fairly simple things, and despite the number of words in the code section, the procedure isn’t that complicated. When in doubt, go to (or call) your local tag office and ask. No one is out to get you or to make it more difficult. There is plenty of information out there if you just go looking for it, and it is better than having to go to traffic court or pay a fine for a ticket for something easily resolvable.
Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only. No lawyer can advise you about your situation without hearing the particular details of your case.