South Carolina Changes License Plate Laws

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a new bill on Tuesday to update the state’s license plate laws. Senate Bill 1083 will require newly purchased cars to be fitted with temporary plates from the DMV that can be traced by police officers. The plates will be also be linked to the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).


The bill was introduced by Senator Larry Grooms in the state legislature on March 16. After being referred to the Committee on Transportation, the bill was bounced back to the Senate for a vote. It was unanimously passed by the Senate on March 28 and then forwarded on to the South Carolina House of Representatives. After being reviewed by the House’s Committee on Education and Public Works, it was passed unopposed by House members on May 2. The bill was then sent to the desk of Governor McMaster, who signed it into law on May 15. Senate Bill 1083 will take effect in May 2019.


The bill is the result of the efforts of Ralph Bell, a repairman from Columbia, South Carolina. Bell was on a job in autumn 2017 when he spotted a thief running away from a home next door. Bell was able to take a cell phone photo of the fleeing burglar, but was dismayed to find that the robber’s temporary plates were untraceable.


The legislation is designed to end a technicality in the state’s 1976 law that has allowed South Carolina drivers to use temporary plates instead of registering their cars with the DMV and receiving a permanent plate. Using the loophole, some drivers are able to avoid purchasing car insurance by simply switching to a new temporary plate every 45 days. Police officers have also been unable to trace the temporary tags in the past, as the tags are not associated with a vehicle VIN.