A majority of states, including California and New York, as well as the District of Columbia require vehicles to have both front and rear license plates. Front plates are less likely to be unreadable due to sunlight glare and most likely to be captured by photographic equipment and plate scanners at toll roads and red lights. Having both plates also helps drivers and law enforcement identify vehicles involved in hit-and-runs, vehicles reported as stolen or vehicles cited in Amber and similar kidnapping alerts when one of the two plates may not be visible.
Missing Front Plate Can Result in Jail and Fines
If you live in a two-plate state and only have one plate on your vehicle, you can be ticketed and fined, and those fines can even differ among jurisdictions within the same state. For example, Texas is a two-plate state, but as of 2014, if you're ticketed in Bexar County, you'll pay a fine of $160, whereas you'd pay $125 for a missing front plate in Williamson County. If you try to evade the law by registering your car out-of-state, you could be charged with much more than a traffic violation. For example, in Washington state, doing so is a gross misdemeanor that can result in up to one year in jail, a minimum $529 fine and an assessment of delinquent taxes and fees.
- Front Plate: Texas A&M Transportation Institute; Front License Plate Market Research - Comparison of Single Versus Dual License Plates
- San Jose Mercury News: Ticketed While Home in Bed for Not Having a Front License Plate
- Texas Municipal Courts Education Center: The State of License Plate Laws in Texas
- Cars.com: How Many States Require Front License Plates?
- Cars Direct: Which States Require a Front License Plate?
- Bexar County Justices of the Peace: Ticket Fine Schedule
- Williamson County Courthouse: Most Common Fine and Fee
- Washington State Legislature: Revised Code of Washington, Section 46.16A.030
- Photo Credit FlairImages/iStock/Getty Images
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