Getting pulled over for no plates

Getting pulled over for no plates

I took delivery of my S and luckily had no issues for about 2 wks but I have now been stopped by Virginia law enforcement 3 times in 4 days (twice in the past 7 hours!) for having no tags. All 3 times after lengthy stops with multiple questions was told I shouldn't drive the car until there are plates. The State Trooper even tried to run the vin accessing California's database and said the vin was not in the system and he suggested the California temporary registration I had taped in the window could be fake. Fortunately, no citations (yet) but this is a major hassle. Local DMV will not issue temporary tags if I go in with a bill of sale. Local Tesla service center can't print temporary tags because they haven't obtained designation as a "dealer" yet. Customer left having to not drive the car or risk repeated run-ins with law enforcement. I am tempted to take a valid plate off our 3rd vehicle which will be sold and put it on the Tesla just to prevent this from happening but that's not legal and could end up with worse punishment (fine/impounded etc) if discovered. Any other advice?

sandman | 20 februari 2013

with a VIN, a Mfg Cert of Origin, proof of insurance, and a completed inspection, most DMV's will issue temp tags. Not sure about Virginia, but they will have a process because cross state sales of unregistered vehicles happen ALL the time. You just need to talk to the right people in VA DMV.

Pungoteague_Dave | 20 februari 2013

I have also been pulled over twice, once in Virginia, once in Maryland, for no plates. Both officers were very polite, read the Tesla letter of introduction, and let me go on my way. No issue here, except inconvenience.

Michael S | 20 februari 2013

Sounds like Virginia either

1.) Needs ticket revenues more than other States.


2.)V State troopers really dig the car and are stopping you to check it out.

#2 happened to me here in CA all the time when I still had my roadster. One CHP actually told me he wished I had made a run for it so he could chase me :-)

DFibRL8R | 20 februari 2013

Thanks Dave, I didn't get a letter of introduction so I'll have to see about getting a copy.

By the way, I took a road trip from Leesburg to Virginia beach this past weekend so was in your neck of the woods. The Leed certified Va Beach Convention center has 67 alternative fuel/hybrid parking spaces but no EV charger (not even a 110 outlet!). Stayed at the Va Beach KOA (very accommodating) and charged at Pomoco Nissan's 1772 in Hampton roads.

DFibRL8R | 20 februari 2013

@Michael S
Unfortunately none of the officers seemed to be "fans". No fun questions about the car, only the 3rd degree about the lack of plates :(

Mark Z | 20 februari 2013

Sounds like the DMV laws need to be changed if you and Tesla can't get plates right away. Tesla needs to change the way things are done, allowing the 3 day vehicle permit for $5 giving you 3 days to get the tags at DMV immediately. Try talking to the supervisors or managers at DMV and get their advice on how the system needs to change for the buyers of Model S in Virginia.. Above all, call Tesla Motors and explain the frustration.

Tesla dropped the ball on my DMV CA work for the ZEV stickers. Had to write another check and fill out the paperwork myself. Tesla had the unsigned paperwork in their file but failed to send me the copy to sign. I was told they changed the process and are now having the customer get the stickers.

jat | 20 februari 2013

I have no idea how it works in VA, but in GA once I had the certificate of origin and bill of sale I went and paid sales tax, then applied for the title and tag and they gave me a GA temporary tag right then. I didn't have any issue driving it for a week with just the "Zero Emissions" tag and the temporary CA permit.

Theresa | 20 februari 2013

I live in Iowa and since vehicles are registered in the county rather than the state there are 99 counties that Tesla has to deal with and make out checks to. They didn't know this and also had several other paperwork issues so I ended up having Tesla mail me their paperwork and I went to the DMV myself which was not painful at all.

I think Tesla was trying to make things easy for the owners but didn't realize how complex it could be for all the different situations. I think they would be far better off just giving the owner(s) all the paperwork and letting them register the car.

dockt | 20 februari 2013

Dfib, glad to hear the VA Beach trip went well. Please figure the plate thing out for me :)

Brian H | 20 februari 2013

Park the car for a month and pretend you haven't got it yet? ;p

jaq1 | 20 februari 2013

I raised this exact concern on TMC forum. The day I picked up my model S I filled out the paperwork to transfer my Maryland tags to my Model S. I currently have those tags, that are in the process of being transferred, fixed to the Model S. This is not legal but there was no way I was going to be pulled over multiple times by VA, DC or MD troopers over this BS. To date I have not been pulled over. You have to weigh the risk benefit for yourself but I guarantee, assuming you're not breaking speed laws, that you will not be pulled over again if you afix the 3rd party tags.

pete2212 | 20 februari 2013

After picking up my car in Michigan, I was pulled over within 3 hours. The officer told me to expect to be pulled over many more times, then his partner crept up(literally) to talk about motor trend.

Since then, 2x in DC, 3x in Virginia. Each time, they've called in backup. Majority have said the DMV doesn't recognize the VIN number on the temporary registration, and two have asked for any shred of proof I didn't steel the car (I'm younger, so perhaps it lends to them questioning a bit further.) It's actually a very awkward question, as until recently I had no title or real proof other then my name on a slip of paper and a signed sheet I got from the man who dropped it off.

Each time it's devolved into all of the officers crowding around and playing with the car, one even had full head gear and was talking through a swat type mask thing. Unless I was in a rush, there was some entertainment value to it.

Got my plate last week, so should be fine, but it was definitely a headache at times.

DFibRL8R | 20 februari 2013

I now carry the following in the car:
Temp Calif paper taped in back window
Proof of insurance
Final MVPA that shows total due including state sales tax and titling fees with Tesla's signature
Copy of cancelled check paid in full to Tesla
Official Letter of explanation from Tesla verifying validity of the CA temp slip for 90 days
State vehicle safety inspection paperwork and windshield sticker (required in Virginia)

I sent a request to the Virginia State police today for them to investigate the issue and find a way to educate their law enforcement officers regarding the legitimacy of Tesla's process and the validity of driving the car with the appropriate CA document affixed to the rear window. We'll see...

scole04 | 20 februari 2013

Its so funny. I live in Maryland and get passed by police cars all day and nobody says a thing but when I go to work in Northern Virginia I've hassled about 3 times lol.

village33 | 20 februari 2013

Why is this on the Tesla forum? Drive your car when you have plates on it. Get impatient and drive with temp tags, don't be surprised to chat with the police.

negarholger | 20 februari 2013

happens even with plates... 12 years ago with my 3 month new ICE got pulled over - plates, registration, insurance all valid, but license plate number and vin are not in his computer. Impounded my car. Go to DMV and lady looks at the computer and says sh**t - they never finished my registration in the system.

jamestily | 20 februari 2013

Picked up my car friday 2/15 at Rockville,Md service center.
Drove back home to Pa. Saturday got stopped for no tag in Pa. Police wanted to make sure car was not stolen. I showed the pdf of the bill of sale from email in i-phone and intro letter received upon pick up. After saying how nice the car was, he let me go. Got stopped 2 more times before weekend was over, once by the partner of the first officer, who said just go and get a tag. I got the cert of origin late saturday and went to notary tag service on Monday. In Pa you need cert of origin, bill of sale, insurance proof, driver's license,then you pay sales tax and registration fees, and walk out with new permanent tag. Do not know if Va is the same. Good luck.

jamestily | 20 februari 2013

Do you have you cert of origin?

Mocaptain | 20 februari 2013

I got pulled over in NH. The officer was not polite at all and suggested that I not drive it until I get plates as I will continuely get pulled over. Even when I handed the officer the letter, he replied that his 12 year old could type something up on his computer. He had to call several people to clear up the issue.

Not a fun first day experience and now I drive looking over my shoulder for continued harrassment.

Tesla.... this temp registration tapped to the window is clearly not working...find another way.

eadolphe | 20 februari 2013

Took us about 4 weeks in Virginia to get street legal. We got our registration and plates in two weeks, ordered on line the special clean plates, got those about 2 weeks later. We've had our car for 4 weeks (tomorrow). My wife was stopped only once (with the kids in the car) and the VA State Trooper was confused, so it wasn't a big conspiracy to rack up $$. She showed him all of the paperwork, he ran the VIN (which didn't pop up). He noticed our inspection sticker and seemed happy about that (he examined the receipt from the inspection, I think that this demonstrated to him that we were making progress and not just sitting on our thumbs). She explained the 90 day temp tag rule, and he let her go, but told her that he would be watching our for her (meaning that the clock was ticking).

What we did:

1. We completed the paperwork for Tesla to submit.
2. Took the car to get safety inspection.
3. We followed up with DMV.
4. We applied for the special clean plates the same day that we got the other plates (about 2 weeks after Tesla submitted the paper work).
5. We called DMV and followed up on the property taxes (still not in the system, so we had her take care of it while we were on hold -database did not have Tesla).

Four weeks later, we have or vanity clean fuel plates, registration, property tax sticker, inspection sticker = street legal.

Pungoteague_Dave | 20 februari 2013

I got pulled over again this evening by a VA State cop at teh MD line. There is no way to get a temp plate in VA with the documentation that TM provides. They have up to 90 days to get us the plates (TM is taking responsibility for the entire registration process). It appears there is no way to avoid this hassle. It is completely legal for us to drive the cars, and all of the cops with whom I have discussed this are surprised that all is okay, but say that I should expect to keep getting pulled over during the next couple of months until the tags arrive.

I had the windows tinted to the exact point of legality, but it made the little piece of paper inside the window invisible. My solution was to laminate the piece of paper and tape it on the lid where the plate will eventually go. Hasn't helped.

dbullard | 20 februari 2013

NEVER switch plates - that's a felony in many states. I know someone who did that, and got nailed for it.

Wait for the plates or pay the tickets.

bradslee | 20 februari 2013

Sorry to hear from MS owners in the east coast to suffer the no-plate hassle. Can TM do something to help MS owners in those problematic States avoiding this hassle when delivering MS to them? If this issue becomes a common problem particularly for MS owners in the east coast (because it seems to me that in California, it is not an issue at all), TM oughts to do something helping MS owners to avoid the hassle.

pete2212 | 20 februari 2013

For what it's worth, I mentioned it when I dropped by the DC Tesla store, they said they were aware and working on a better solution.

Trekker56 | 20 februari 2013

Is the 90 day rule available anywhere on VA DMV site or somewhere?
Our car isn't expected until April but I'd want to keep as much documentation as possible.

Also hopefully Tesla Tysons Corner store would be open by then and maybe they will be able to issue proper tags like a dealer...

pbresnan | 20 februari 2013

I've been stopped 4 times in Washington, DC. No tickets, but this is a hassle and I sometimes don't use the Tesla to go downtown as a result. Tesla is VERY slow to get tags, in my humble opinion. after 5 weeks of not getting plates, I complained today and learned they had never been ordered.. I was told upon delivery of the car this was being taken care of. It wasn't. Does anyone know what group at Tesla is responsible for ordering and delivering plates?

jackhub | 20 februari 2013

Kentucky also registers cars by county. Tesla did not understand that initially and sent the papers to the state capitol, but once I explained things they were very helpful- even calling the local office and determing the requirements. Tesla is learning to deal with the laws of 50 diffeerent states. I suppose our experiences are part of being innovators and early adopters. With the dealeer setup of the other mfgs. they don't have this issue. It is still a hassle though.

FLsportscarenth... | 20 februari 2013

Hmm remember driving around Tacoma, Washington when I was younger and crazier with a 'MAFIA' New York souvenier plate on the back when my expired real NY rear plate fell off my classic Firebird on I-5 somewhere... For about a week nothing happened (was waiting for replacement title from NY to switch to WA plates), but then a Tacoma City cop followed me for about two blocks, sweated bullets, but no lights, fortunately the title came in two days later and could fix the situation...

Insurance was much cheaper in WA too... Get Broadform coverage - its the best... Rainwater Agency in South Tacoma can get you good prices...

Some places you just get bothered a lot (usually suburban and rural places where the cops are bored?) In urban areas, large and small; NYC, LA, Albany, Tacoma, Seattle and Miami cops never bother me even I usually drive ticket attracting cars and not slowly... I only have problems when I venture out to suburban or rural places.... Suburbs are the worst... Stay away from places with cul-de-sacs!!! Certain states and regions are worse than others: redneck parts of Northern or Central FL 'you got any coke in there?', Upstate and Suburban NY, NJ 'you are from NY so you must be a criminal', AZ, Crossing to Vancouver, BC 'American so must but carrying a gun'....

jbunn | 20 februari 2013

Man, I cant believe this. Ive been driving for three weeks or more, and no contact with police. Clearly, I need to work harder. I guess living in WA helps.

KendallPB | 21 februari 2013

Where does one get a "Official Letter of explanation from Tesla verifying validity of the CA temp slip for 90 days"?

What's a "certificate of origin" and how does one get this?

No problems so far but now I've jinxed it for sure.

@DFibRL8R: Has any cop cared about the MVPA or cancelled check? I have insurance # in the car (not sure how they'd verify that; I printed it off and probably some cop's 12-year-old kid could've done it, it doesn't look like much ;-) and all the paperwork that came with the car is still in the glove box. Maryland doesn't have annual inspection like Virginia.

Brian H | 21 februari 2013

Weaving and jackrabbitting will help.

DFibRL8R | 21 februari 2013

I received an electronic copy of the Tesla Letter of Explanation after I called the Maryland Service center to discuss the problem with my DS. He said the latter had previously only been given to folks who received their car by direct ship and not those who picked up at the service center. He indicated they would probably start giving it out to everyone given the run-ins with LEO's.

It's a PDF document on Tesla letter head, I copy and pasted the text below for those interested. If you post your email I can send you a copy.

State Law Enforcement,
The customer listed on the attached California temporary registration tag purchased this Tesla Model S as an internet purchase from Tesla Motors, Inc., a dealer licensed in the state of California (dealer #68106).
A California temporary tag is legal registration for up to ninety days from issuance and has been issued in accordance with California law. During this time, Tesla Motors, Inc. will submit Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin and other documentation to register the vehicle with Department of Motor Vehicles in the customer’s designated state.
The attached California temporary tag has been reported to the California DMV, allowing the vehicle to be released from California and registered in the proper state.
If further information is necessary, please contact me at the number listed below.
Thank you,
Nancy McCain
DMV Compliance Supervisor

Pungoteague_Dave | 21 februari 2013

I have the letter and it has worked, although I was pulled over this morning on the way to the airport. Note that the CA "tag" is just a small strip of paper with 1/4" lettering. This was the fifth time I have been pulled over in less than 3 weeks and about 2,000 miles. TM needs a better way. Soon.

KendallPB | 21 februari 2013

Thanks, DFibRL8R. Perhaps related, apparently due to no Maryland dealer license, people can no longer pick up at the Rockville Service Center.

Gator | 21 februari 2013

In Maryland, can you take all of the Tesla paperwork and simply get the paper temporary tags at the MVA Express while you wait for the real ones to show up?

jlrush | 25 februari 2013

VA Tesla owners, where are you getting your car inspected?

Pungoteague_Dave | 25 februari 2013


Not sure where you got your info, but I took delivery at Rockville several weeks ago, and saw deliveries underway there last Saturday when dropping off for service. Unless this is a new development in the last two days, check your source. I was informed that they will not do deliveries at the downtown DC store because there isn't space, so Rockville is the only choice.

samfeder | 25 februari 2013

I took delivery at the Rockville service center on Saturday 2/23. They are still going strong. Got no plates, etc., just like everyone else. | 25 februari 2013

Just renewed my temporary tags for another 60 days. The County says they are having trouble getting paperwork from the "dealership".

KendallPB | 25 februari 2013

Someone in Maryland, told this by Tesla. Maybe they plan to stop after the already-planned ones are done, or something? Or maybe it's another left-hand/right-hand issue where internal communication is screwy? Hmm. Thanks, Dave & Sam.

@KevinR: Is that in Maryland or Virginia? Are you talking about renewing the California tag? If you're in Maryland, then where/how do you check on this stuff with Maryland? I'd love to find out where things stand with my tags, but sometimes find locating things on Maryland's sites a challenge. | 26 februari 2013

@KendallPB Actually I'm in Colorado.

gregv64 | 26 februari 2013

Wow, sounds like a drag. Of course, here in California all new cars come this way, so I've never been pulled over. Hopefully Tesla will get dealers licenses at least in all the states that don't prohibit it and manage to do the registration in a normal way for each state before delivering the cars.

KendallPB | 26 februari 2013

I looked around for my MVPA printout and the copy of my loan paperwork, and realized I'd had them in the glove box this whole time--accidentally prepared for being pulled over, without knowing it! ;-) I put them back in the car for just in case.

@DFibRL8R, I'd like a copy of that letter, if it's not specific to you. I still haven't gotten around to calling Rockville about a couple of things I need to chat about, and who knows when I'll get around to it, so a copy of the letter would be nice. My e-mail is my first name (i.e., my handle minus the "PB" part) and the domain name is Thanks in advance!

Carefree | 27 februari 2013

Maybe they should just turn the whole registration and title process over to the owners like they do here in Arizona. I got my car this past Sunday, received all the necessary papers the following day, went to the Arizona DMV and registered the car. Walked out with my permanent plates, registration and title in hand. Took all but 45 minutes to get it done. Seems the quickest and easiest way to avoid all the hassle for both Tesla and us.

Steve_W | 27 februari 2013

I got off the phone with the Rockville Service Center and Tesla Headquarters. They will only do delivery at that location now if you prepay for the car. If you want to inspect the car before paying for it (as I am doing), the car can not be picked up at the Rockville Service Center. This is because they are not licensed in the state of Maryland. Thus, I will pick my car up at the DC store.

Mocaptain | 27 februari 2013

Cert of Orgin came yesterday. It took less than 2 weeks from delivery to recieved it. I had been pulled over twice and called Tesla to let them know. They appologied and said they would try to get the CofO out soon. They pullted through for me.


Anthony H | 27 februari 2013

@Carefree is right.
(Each state has their own process.)

Here in Arizona, which is not exactly know as a progressive-legislation environment, different Model S owners have had very different experiences. Some received registration paperwork a week before the car arrived, and others requested expedited services from Tesla to get the registration paperwork three weeks after the car was delivered.

But I will add this: over three weeks, with no plate, driving 50 miles daily on AZ metro freeways, including a road-trip to Las Vegas, NV and back, with the stupid-little temp CA slip of paper taped to the back window, I was never stopped once. Honestly, I think much of this is driven by local (meaning state or county) manpower and priorities. In AZ, Phoenix PD and County Sheriffs don't have time for this issue -- they're trying to ... that would be political, I'll stop now.

Maybe just being close to CA helps. (?)

gregv64 | 27 februari 2013

It could be that they're more used to seeing new California cars. I doubt eastern states ever see many CA cars with temp registrations. This morning in CA a highway patrol pulled up behind me at the light to get on the freeway with my no-tags and little slip of paper car. They followed me onto the freeway and then passed me, no problem.

Brian H | 28 februari 2013


John_WorldFlyer | 28 februari 2013

Can the California Temp Registration be laminated or put in a FedEx pouch and attached to the traditional license plate location? That might at least let the LEO see that there's some kind of temp plate/registration for the car.