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As with most jurisdictions in the United States in the 1920's and 1930's, lack of motor vehicle driver control and law enforcement prompted legislators in the Palmetto State to devise a plan and an agency to effectively administer and oversee the upholding of laws governing motor vehicles and the rules of the road.

In 1930, the Driver Licensing Act was passed and the new South Carolina Highway Patrol was formed. 69 men were selected to patrol almost 6000 miles of highway in the state at that time. Unlike most early state law enforcement agencies of the day, these original members of the SCHP had no formalized training.

They were simply issued a gun, a badge and a uniform and with a few verbal instructions, were told to hit the road and start enforcing the law. The authority vested upon these new officers were parallel to the powers of county sheriffs where it pertained to highway traffic law, and were responsible for enforcement of the new licensing law and promoting highway safety.

Formalized training commenced in 1932 at Camp Jackson where recruits underwent three months of training in all phases of patrol work. In 1937, the Highway Safety Act prompted the SCHP to grow to 90 members with 79 being patrol officers. At this time, patrol cars began to replace motorcycles as the primary means of patrol transportation.

Motorcycles did make a comeback to the SCHP after a 50 year hiatus. Recently, the SCHP motorcycle fleet has consisted of six Harley Davidson FLHPT models and eleven BMW RT1100 models.

Radar use was introduced in 1962 for speed enforcement and unmarked patrol cars commenced duty on the highways of South Carolina in 1965. In 1978, SCHP patrol vehicles went to metallic silver and blue stripes for the first time. In the 1980's, the SCHP experimented with 5 Liter Ford Mustangs for patrol, but by 1994, they were phased-out in favor of unmarked Crown Victorias.

That same year, all seven patrol districts were issued semi-marked Ford Explorers as an Emergency Preparedness and Special Enforcement Vehicle. The following year saw the introduction of the Chevy Camaro to the SCHP fleet. Due to state government restructuring, the SCHP became part of the Department of Public Safety in 1993.

The mission of the SCHP is to provide equitable service and protection and to uphold the laws and constitutions of the United States and the State of South Carolina in order to promote a safe and secure environment for the public.




License Plates of the South Carolina Highway Patrol

The earliest use of license plates on the cars of the SCHP indicated R-prefixed plates as early as 1931. By the 1940's, the SCHP went to regular passenger car license plates denoted by a letter prefix indicating the car's weight class. C prefix plates were for cars weighing 2501 to 3000 pounds. D prefix plates were for cars weighing 3001 to 3500 pounds and E prefix plates were for cars weighing 3501 to 4000 pounds. The predominant prefix seen on SCHP cars was D until the late 1950's-1960's when E prefixes were more prevalent with the "chrome age".

A great deal of thanks goes to Ben Bunton of scplates.com for providing some of the photos of the earlier South Carolina passenger license plates seen below.



SouthCarolina  police license plate image1940-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Deep yellow over black.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1941-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Black over deep yellow.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1942-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Deep yellow over black.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1943-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Black over deep yellow.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1944-tab strip used on 1943 plate.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 1 3/4" x 11". Embossed steel.
Deep yellow over dark green.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1945-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Deep yellow over green.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1946-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
White over black.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1947-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Black over deep yellow.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1948-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Deep yellow over black.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image1949-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
White over black.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1950-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Black over white.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1951-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
White over black.

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image1952-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Deep yellow over black.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1953-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
Black over deep yellow.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1954-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12 1/2". Embossed steel.
White over black.


South Carolina  police car

SouthCarolina  police license plate image1955-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12". Embossed steel.
Black over white.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1956-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12". Embossed steel.
Black over deep yellow.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1957-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12". Embossed steel.
White over blue.


SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image1958-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12". Embossed steel.
Blue over white.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1959-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12". Embossed steel.
White over blue.
SouthCarolina  police license plate image1960-Passenger license plate used.
Vehicle weight class letter prefix.
Approx. 6" x 12". Embossed steel.
Blue over white.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1961 passenger E series (3,501 to 4,000 lbs) issue.
    Embossed steel. Red over white.

    (Courtesy scplates.com)
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image

In 1962, the state of South Carolina introduced a series of license plate prefix codes for the various levels of government as it related to official use vehicles. The SG prefix was reserved for any state government vehicles including the Highway Patrol. The plates followed the same format and color scheme of the annual passenger car license plates issued in the state. The SG prefix was followed by a small dash, followed by a number up to four digits in the earlier years. By the 1980's, the number increased to five digits after the SG prefix.

  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1962 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Usually issued to SCHP in the SG-#-### format.
    White over red.

    (Courtesy scplates.com )
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1963 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    White over green.
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1964 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    White over black.

    (Courtesy scplates.com )
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1965 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Black over white.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageblablba

1966 State Government issue: White over blue with SG prefix and number up to four digits over SOUTH CAROLINA 66

  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1967 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Dark blue over white.
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  • South Carolina  police car
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1968 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Reflective white over black.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1969 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Reflective white over blue.

    (Courtesy scplates.com )
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1970 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Reflective white over green.

    (Courtesy scplates.com )
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1971 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Reflective white over brown.

    (Courtesy Robert Ward )
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1972 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Reflective white over black.
    Series for SCHP in the SGA ### to SGM ### series.
    Shown here with registration slip.
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1972 issue for the Lieutenant Colonel of the SCHP
    Reflective white over black.
    Regular SCHP vehicles used State Government prefixed plates which now had an additional letter after the SG.
    SCHP car numbers were the SGA ### to SGM ### series.
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  • North  police license plate image
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1973 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Reflective white over blue.
    Regular SCHP vehicles used State Government prefixed plates which had an additional letter after the SG.
    SCHP car numbers were the SGA ### to SGM ### series.
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1974 brought about some question as to what type of state government license plates were used on SCHP vehicles. The reason for this uncertainty was due to TWO TYPES of SG license plates introduced that year. The first type was a continuation of the annual plate which was formatted the same as previous annual issues leading up to that time, with SOUTH CAROLINA embossed along the top of the plate and 1974 embossed along the bottom. A registration number commencing with SG and another letter followed by three numbers was in the color scheme of reflective white over green. Confirmed numbers used on this base plate for SCHP are: SGD 200, SGD 227, SGE 151, SGE 158, SGF 114, SGG 125, SGG 142, SGK 125 and SGL 116.
The other state government license plate issued at that time was colored reflective white over black and in lieu of the year at the bottom of the plate, was the word PERMANENT. These plates seem to have been used primarily on trucks and trailers, however there are some old-timers who recall these plates also used on SCHP cars. There is no photographic or other evidence of this being the case, but there seems to be no photographic evidence for the annual SG license plate use in 1974 either!....a bit of a "black hole year"....

  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1974-circa 1980 Permanent State Government issue.
    Believed to have been used primarily on state owned trucks and trailers, but also possibly used concurrent with white over green 1974 SGA-SGM issue on SCHP cars.
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1975 State Government issue. Embossed steel.
    Reflective white over red. SGA-SGM prefixes.
    May have been issued concurrent with white over black SG PERMANENT issue.

    (Courtesy scplates.com)
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1976-1978 State Government issue. Embossed aluminum.
    Blue over reflective white. SGA-SGM prefixes.
    Features the state's US Bicentennial silkscreen graphics.
    May have been issued concurrent with white over black SG PERMANENT issue.

    (Courtesy scplates.com)
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Around late 1979 to early 1980, South Carolina issued an entirely new style license plate for use on state government vehilces including the Highway Patrol. The new plates were made of embossed aluminum and featured a subdued silkscreen graphic of the state silhouette in light blue over a reflective white background. The state emblem was emblazoned in white over the state silhouette. The state name was silkscreened in dark blue at the bottom of the plate between the lower mounting holes. The word PERMANENT was embossed at the top of the plate between the upper mounting holes. The prefix SG was used again with a five digit number of random issue for SCHP use. These plates had an embossed border painted in dark blue as were the raised characters.
These plates were used into the 1990's.

  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageC.1979-1990's State Government issue.
    Embossed aluminum.
    No reserved number series for SCHP.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

Around late 1984, a slight change was made to the license plates issued for government vehicles in the state of South Carolina. The plates went back to embossed steel and did-away with the silkscreened graphics. The state name was embossed in small die font between the lower mounting holes. Otherwise, the plates continued with their SG prefix and five digit numbers.

  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageC. 1984-1991 State government issue.
    Embossed steel. No silkscreened graphics.
    No reserved numbers for SCHP.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageC. 1989-2009 State government issue.
    Embossed aluminum with step-border. Silkscreened graphics. No reserved numbers for SCHP.
    (Courtesy scplates.com)
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SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

In 1991, the South Carolina Highway Patrol finally were able to get their first reserved issue license plates. The plates were identical to the circa-1979-1990's graphic SG plates, however with the only exception being the HP prefix for Highway Patrol and a four digit number which begins at HP 1000. The number was initially assigned based on rank seniority, however it seems as though the numbers are issued randomly now.
From 2009 onward, these plates became entirely flat-silkscreened with no embossed features whatsoever.

  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1991-current Highway Patrol issue. Embossed aluminum.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image

SouthCarolina  police license plate image
2015- Courtesy Ben Bunton
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageSouth Carolina Department of Public Safety/SDHP Aggresive Criminal Enforcement front license plate.
    Silkscreened thin aluminum with oblong mounting holes.
    The ACE license plate is issued to SDHP troopers who effect their 5th felony arrest within a year for ONLY THE FOLLOWING: Drug arrest with a charge of possession with Intent to Distribute/Trafficking, Occupied Stolen Vehicle, US Currency Seizure of $25,000 or more, Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Fugitive from Justice.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image





MOTORCYCLE LICENSE PLATES OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA HIGHWAY PATROL

There is very little information known about any motorcycle use by the SCHP prior to the 1990's.
A 1940 photo seen below depicts a SCHP patrolman seated on his motorcycle facing to the rear with a standard South Carolina motorcycle license plate number 180. Therefore it can be surmised that early SCHP motorcycle license plates were standard civilian issues in the earlier years.
There is record of embossed steel 9" x 4" South Carolina SG prefixed motorcycle plates in existence from 1962 and through 1966 and they utilized the same color scheme as their 6" x 12" contemporaries. A 1965 version is seen below.
In 1979, a black over reflective white SG-prefixed permanent motorcycle license plate was issued and believed to have been used until the early 1990's.
In the 1990's throughout the 2000's, an HP-prefixed PERMANENT motorcycle license plate was used and colored medium blue over reflective white.



South Carolina  police motorcycle
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1965 State Government Motorcycle issue.
    Approx. 4" x 9". Embossed steel.
    Black over white.

    (Courtesy scplates.com)
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageCirca 1979-1990's State government motorcycle issue.
    Black over reflective white.
    SG prefix with number up to 4 digits.
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1990's-Current Highway Patrol motorcycle issue.
    Number up to 2 digits.
  • South Carolina  police motorcycle

South Carolina  police motorcycle



Specialty Issues

The following are booster and other types used both on and off duty as only rear license plates are mandatory in South Carolina allowing for various types that can be displayed on the front of motor vehicles.

  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageOlder all-flat SCHP emblem booster/front license plate.
    Thin silkscreened aluminum with oblong mounting holes.
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageEmbossed thin metal front license plate.
    Used on-duty as seen on the right.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image1992 National Troopers Coalition Souvenir issue.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageEmbossed thin metal front license plate with palmetto.
  • SouthCarolina  police license plate imageEmbossed thin metal oval license plate
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  • SouthCarolina  police license plate image2014-current issue South Carolina Troopers Association.
    Registered to personal vehicle.
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