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Don't say cheese! NJ bans smiles on licenses

Published On: Sep 21 2012 10:43:25 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 24 2012 11:52:55 AM EDT
New Jersey driver's license


Driver's license photos are notorious for capturing the worst side of a motorist's profile. But license photos in New Jersey may get a little worse after state officials said they had to forbid smiling widely in poses due to software issues.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission told the Philadelphia Daily News that smiling or making other facial expressions in driver's license photos confuses their new facial recognition software, which is designed to catch fraudsters looking to get a false ID card.

"That could be someone trying to steal someone else's identity to get insurance benefits, or someone trying to get out of a DUI by getting a license under another name," Mike Horan with the MVC said. "This helps us weed out fraud."


Horan told the newspaper that slight smiles are OK, but "Hey-I-won-the-lottery-type smiles" are not.

"To get an accurate photo, you don't want an excessively expressive face in the photo," Horan said.

Two other states, Pennsylvania and Delaware, also use the same facial software. However, Jan McKnight, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation representative, said they haven't encountered a problem with smiling.

There was no word on how the software reacts to scowls over license renewal wait times.

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