Ask a Trooper: License plate display issues

By KBJR News 1

Ask a Trooper: License plate display issues

October 28, 2013 Updated Oct 28, 2013 at 11:54 AM CDT

Question: Why do some vehicles need two license plates and some only need one? What about dealer plates? Can plates be put in a window and be legally displayed for any length of time? I see people driving cars with no front plate, or having the plate in their dash, including car dealer vehicles. Is that a law for where the month and year tabs have to be displayed on the plates or what?

Answer: Some states are different than others, but make no mistake about it- Minnesota is a two plate state (see MS.S. 169.79 Subdivision 6). Having two license plates helps officers identify a vehicle when we meet them as well as when we are behind them. Some of the exceptions of course to the two plate requirement in Minnesota are car dealers, motorcycles, trailers, semi-truck tractors and cars that are more than 20 years old (they can qualify for Collector vehicle plates, which only require one plate as well, but that’s another story—see M.S.S. 169.79 Subdivision 4).

Displaying the license plate in the dash or window of any vehicle is not legal, even for car dealers, for any length of time at all. They should know that. In all cases, required license plates have to be properly and securely fastened to the front and to the rear of a vehicle (see M.S.S. 169.79 Subdivision 7). Car dealers that use the paper temporary permits would be an exception, but not the license plates.

These violations can be costly, although they do not appear on your driving record, because they are registration violations. When we see unlawful use of a dealer plate, we can charge the dealer, and take the plate, then they have to pay a fine and they have to buy another plate to replace that one if so desired. It also would count against their dealership, as we notify the Dealer’s Unit of any of those types of violations.

In reference to the display of the tabs, M.S.S. 169.79 Subdivision 8 says: “License plates issued to vehicles registered (under section 168.017), must display the month of expiration in the lower left corner of each plate and the year of expiration in the lower right corner of each plate.” The tabs have to be visible. That is something we also look for as a violation when on patrol.

Thanks for asking. Minnesota State Statutes are copyrighted. Portions were used with permission of the Office of the Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota.