The News-Leader’s Answer Man: Missouri’s License Plate Laws

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – I had no idea all you readers cared so much about Missouri’s license plate laws.

In Sunday’s Answer Man column I answered the question: Why does Missouri mandate both a front and back license plate?

Thousands of you read the story online. In addition to that, I received several emails and actual phone calls.

Missouri is one of 31 states that requires front-and-back plates on cars and pickups. The other 19 require only one plate.

The main reason for front-and-back in Missouri is that law enforcement — particularly the highway patrol — prefers to be able to see a plate on a vehicle whether it’s coming or going.

Those most opposed to front plates are owners of high-end cars who say it’s an aesthetic abomination to put a plate on the beautifully sculpted nose of, say, a Maserati or a Corvette.

Apparently, many of you often see cars and pickups without front plates and are wondering if law enforcement cares.

Here’s one email …

“Moved here a year ago with a car for which a front plate would ruin everything! Friends said to forget putting it on front! I started looking at cars & trucks and bunches don’t have a front plate! I never put it on, and no probs.”

And …

” A related question for law enforcement is: Do they ticket MO vehicles not having front plates? There are many of them around, and car salespeople kind of say it’s up to you (not wanting to ruin the looks of their cars.)”

As well as …

“Why isn’t something done with all these that don’t put the plate on the front. I have noticed for several years that Mustangs and other sporty cars often don’t have them on front. 

“There is a Springfield City policeman living next door to us and he bought a Mustang about a year ago and does not have a front license plate. He also always backs in so you can’t see his plate.

“I see this a lot and wonder why they are not made to put them on front like the rest of us. It doesn’t bother me that I have one on the front of my SUV but we should all obey the rules.”

Yes, police say, the law is enforced

Let’s hear from Jasmine Bailey, spokeswoman for the Springfield police department.

Yes, she says, Springfield police will ticket you for not having a front-and-rear plate on your car or pickup.

“A license plate violation is a primary violation,” she says. “It is enforced. It is not necessarily a high priority.”

For example, she says, if an officer is responding to a call, he or she probably is not going to stop to ticket someone they see driving without a front plate.

“It is absolutely enforced by the highway patrol,” says Sgt. John Lueckenhoff, spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “Troopers stop vehicles every day for failing to display the proper plates.”

In addition to questions about enforcement, some of you asked me why you see large trucks without rear plates.

Here’s the law:

“The license plate on buses, other than school buses, and on trucks, tractors, truck tractors or truck-tractors licensed in excess of twelve thousand pounds shall be displayed on the front of such vehicles.”

The average weight of a pickup truck is 4,000 to 6,000 pounds.

Bigger trucks are exempt — only a front plate is required — because any vehicle that large is likely to be attached to a trailer, which will have a plate on the rear, says Lueckenhoff.

But nothing prevents an operator of a truck over 12,000 pounds from getting front-and-rear plates, he adds.

Some over-the-road truckers do this because, as mentioned, different states have different requirements and it can save drivers the time and aggravation of being pulled over for questioning.

(These are the views of News-Leader columnist Steve Pokin, who has been at the paper 6½  years, and over his career has covered everything from courts and cops to features and fitness. He can be reached at 836-1253, spokin@gannett.com, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail at 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806. Steve’s articles:  http://www.news-leader.com/topic/f471bbef-b023-4ca2-b031-eda137400290/pokin-around/)

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