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License plate placement clarified

Published (3/23/2012)
By Mike Cook
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Passenger vehicles in Minnesota are required to have a license plate displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle.

However, there have been some different interpretations as to what is considered acceptable for the plate placement.

“Current law says it has to be displayed in the front. If I have it in my front windshield, some can argue that’s displaying it in the front of my car, and I think there are some judges that agree with that opinion,” said Mary Ellen Heng, a Minneapolis city attorney.

Sponsored by Rep. Ron Shimanski (R-Silver Lake), HF2517 aims to clarify the situation.

Approved March 21 by the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee and sent to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee, the bill would require that license plates be mounted on the vehicle’s bumper or in a location designed for license plate display.

“We seek clarification and guidance to help us do our jobs better and eliminate those extra costs of time associated with processing citations, going to court and other kind of things,” said Jim Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.

The infraction would still be considered a primary offense, meaning law enforcement could stop a driver for the infraction.

Shimanski said about 9,300 citations are annually issued for not having a front license plate displayed. “About 25 percent of those citations are dismissed when taken to court because the statute isn’t clear about what displaying the front license plate really means,” he said.

The bill was successfully amended by Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee), so that the fine for an improper plate locale would be $20 with no other surcharges or fees imposed.

“If people only had a $20 fine they wouldn’t even bother coming down (to court) and they’d probably just pay it,” Beard said. “My hunch is the hundred-and-some-dollar surcharge probably drives more people to come down, take the day off and fight it than anything else.”

A companion, SF1140, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parry (R-Waseca), awaits action by the full Senate.

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