Expired Vehicle Inspection Stickers and Virginia Law

Judging from the number of cars on the road with expired inspection stickers, there is not a shortage of people who forget to take their cars in for their Virginia State inspection in a timely manner. Virginia Code §46.2-1157 requires that “[t]he owner or operator of any motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer registered in Virginia and operated or parked on a highway within the Commonwealth shall submit his vehicle to an inspection of its mechanism and equipment by an official inspection station.” [1] Motor vehicles must be inspected on a yearly basis. [2] Failure to have your motor vehicle inspected is a traffic infraction [3] and is penalized as a Class 3 misdemeanor. [4] The court has the discretion to dismiss the charge and may do so if the offense has been remedied prior to the court hearing.

Imagine driving down the road and you realize that your inspection sticker expired a few days earlier. You call your mechanic to schedule an appointment and drive directly to the shop for the inspection. After parking your car on the street, you go inside the shop to let the mechanic know it is parked outside. By the time you go back to your car, you have a ticket for an expired sticker on your vehicle. That doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

The Washington Post recently reported a story about a business park in Chantilly, Virginia, where multiple vehicles parked outside of a mechanic’s shop awaiting inspection were being ticketed for expired inspection stickers. [5] Vehicles with expired stickers are actually protected from being ticketed if they are being driven directly “between the place where such vehicle is kept or garaged and an official inspection station for the purpose of having the same inspected pursuant to a prior appointment with such station.” [6] But once the vehicle has made it to the official inspection station and has been parked in the station’s lot, the vehicle is subject to being ticketed.  Fortunately, the General Assembly has amended the law, which went into effect July 1, 2016.  Even if your vehicle is displaying an expired inspection sticker, if the vehicle is parked and awaiting inspection at an official inspection station, the vehicle will be exempt from being ticketed for the traffic infraction.

[1] Code of Virginia §46.2-1157, available at http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/46.2-1157

[2] Code of Virginia §46.2-1158, available at http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/46.2-1158/

[3] Code of Virginia §46.2-1158.02, available at http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title46.2/chapter10/section46.2-1158.02/

[4] Code of Virginia §46.2-1171, available at http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/46.2-1171/

[5] Tom Jackman, “Fairfax tickets cars for needing inspection — while they wait for inspections,” Washington Post, October 11, 2015, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/fairfax-car-repair-shops-say-parking-enforcement-targets-their-customers/2015/10/11/e960753a-63cf-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html

[6] Code of Virginia §46.2-1158.01, available at http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title46.2/chapter10/section46.2-1158.01/