California DMV Loophole Allowed Jobs to Drive Sans-Plates

Following the death of Steve Jobs in early October, there has been much reflection and speculation about the life of the man who lived, quite paradoxically, both a very public and simultaneously private life. One rather perplexing topic of discussion was the iconic Apple cofounder’s Mercedes-Benz SL 55 AMG, which surprisingly was absent a license plate. New information from a former Apple Security employee reveals that Steve Jobs relied on a loophole in California law to get away with it.

Steve's Mercedes
Steve’s Mercedes-Benz SL 55 AMG, without a license plate.

Although this story was initially discussed in 2008, Mr. Jobs’s passing renewed the discussion and mystery. While acting in a seemingly clear violation of California law, Steve nonetheless managed to avoid plate-related fines during his four-year ownership of the vehicle. 

Initial speculation suggested that privacy was the impetus in Steve’s decision to drive sans-plate, and Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak suggested in a recent interview that Mr. Jobs held a special permit allowing him this privilege. This assertion by Mr. Wozniak, however, conflicted with other reports of the missing license plate, which could find no California law allowing civilians to permanently drive without plates. 

Now comes an update from iTWire, which spoke with Jon Callas, a former senior security officer with Apple and now CTO of Entrust, an online security solutions company. According to him, Mr. Jobs relied on a loophole in California law: the owner of a brand new vehicle has a maximum of six months to obtain and affix a license plate.  

Apple’s then-CEO, for security and/or aesthetic reasons, made an arrangement with his Mercedes leasing company in which he would exchange cars every six months; trading for an identical Mercedes each time. As iTWire puts it: “At no time would he ever be in a car as old as six months; and thus there was no legal requirement to have the number plates fitted.”

Even after his passing, Mr. Jobs is showing us how he “thought differently,” and perhaps has inspired a number of Californians to take advantage of this “loophole.” California may need to update its DMV regulations soon.