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Do Minnesotans without front and back license plates ever get caught?

19December 2021

Minnesota law requires that most vehicles have a front and back license plate, but Drive readers say they are noticing increasing numbers of motorists flouting the law.

“I was wondering if Minnesota changed its law regarding front and back license plates,” Barb from New Hope said in an e-mail.

Nope. Vehicles registered in the passenger class in Minnesota are required to display front and back license plates, said Doug Neville, a spokesman for Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS).

A single plate is permitted on collectors’ vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, small trailers and farm trucks.

Suzy from Excelsior said at first it was just Tesla Model 3s she saw without front plates and presumed it was because its maker didn’t include holes in front to accommodate one. But then she noticed other high-end cars without them.

“I saw two plateless Porsches within two blocks this morning in Excelsior,” she wrote in a recent e-mail. “Lately there has been an epidemic in the Lake Minnetonka area of expensive cars without their front license plates. These are not Florida cars; they have Minnesota plates in back, so definitely should have front plates Why should they get away with it?”

They don’t always. Nearly 5,500 motorists were caught and charged in 2017 for not having both plates, according court records. That number dropped to 1,382 last year and stood at 1,353 for 2021 as of last week.

While 19 states require plates on the back only, having front and back plates is helpful for law enforcement, Neville said.

Officers needing to run vehicle information can get the plate information from the front or rear of the vehicle. It’s also easier for police to identify a suspect’s vehicle, such as when the vehicle is spotted in oncoming traffic or backed into a parking spot. Surveillance cameras can capture front and back images of a vehicle, allowing officers to identify cars and trucks used in crimes such as a robbery, kidnapping or gas drive-off, Neville said.

January tabs might be late

Motorists who renew their January 2022 vehicle registrations online or by mail may not get them before their tabs expire.

But there is no need to worry, Neville said. A driver’s record is updated as soon as an online or mail-in application is processed. Law enforcement checking a license plate will see that a driver who has renewed has a valid registration even if they don’t have stickers displayed, Neville said.

Maplewood-based 3M, which makes the tabs, has not been able to get the stock to make the tabs due to the global supply chain disruption. The company expects to get a shipment Dec. 24 and will work with the printer to get caught up, Neville said.

There have been about 52,000 online and mailed-in registration renewals submitted for January so far, and DVS expects to receive another 320,000 renewal applications for registrations expiring by the end of January.

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