New Jersey Bans Smiling in Driver's License Photos

Going to the department of motor vehicles can put a frown on anyone's face, but for New Jersey residents, smiling is officially against the rules.

Mel Evans/AP Photo

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has cracked down on drivers smiling in their driver's license photos because their smiles could interfere with new facial recognition software.

New Jersey resident Velvet McNeil told the Philadelphia Inquirer Thursday that when she went to get her license at her local New Jersey motor vehicle center, she was told she could not smile for her photo. Shocked, McNeil said she walked out of the center.

"Your picture means a lot," she told the newspaper. "It's who you are."

Elyse Coffey, a spokeswoman for the Motor Vehicle Commission, said that there was no law banning smiles, only a simple request that drivers not smile "as if you've just won $5 million in the lottery."

"The digital photos allow us to conduct a facial recognition scrub, which allows us to check the photos of our 19 million faces to make sure each driver has only one driving record and you are who you say you are," Coffey said. "We're asking customers not to make exaggerated facial expressions."

Coffey said that residents are also asked to remove glasses and head wear, unless it is for religious reasons, as well as to keep their eyes open in order for the database to operate properly.