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New Jersey bans smiling in driver’s license photos

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The New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles has banned smiling during license photos so that their new facial-scanning software can identify drivers more easily.

But the ban, which took effect in January, has many drivers scowling, complaining that they’re entitled to pose how they wish.

“Your picture means a lot; it’s who you are,” said Velvet McNeil, 38, of Sicklerville, N.J., to the Philadelphia Daily News.

“Why should we all look like androids, looking mopey? I know there are some people who don’t have good driver’s licenses, but I actually keep all mine.”

The New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles has banned smiling during license photos so that their new facial-scanning software can identify drivers more easily

The New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles has banned smiling during license photos so that their new facial-scanning software can identify drivers more easily

Velvet McNeil went in to renew her license last week in Cherry Hill, but left when she was told to stop flashing her pearly whites.

Mike Horan, spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, explained that the new software will help catch identity thieves.


“This helps us weed out fraud,” he said. For example, if someone poses for a new portrait, but it doesn’t match the old one, investigators are notified.

The software works best when there are consistent facial expressions.

“To get an accurate photo, you don’t want an excessively expressive face in the photo,” he said.

Slight smiles, he said, are fine, but “Hey-I-won-the-lottery-type smiles” are not.

Other states like Delaware and Pennsylvania also have the software, but they allow smiling. New Jersey residents will just have to not grin – and bear it.