Are Front License Plates Optional In Minnesota? The Answer May Surprise You
So as I was driving home today there was someone behind me with their front license plate displayed on their dash, and it made me think back to when I saw a Tesla or some other modern-styled car with no front license plate anywhere.
While I have seen people put their front plate on their dash, I haven’t really seen cars without out one even displayed in the front in Minnesota. However, I do know thanks to social media that many states don’t require front license plates!
The question is… does Minnesota allow you to drive without a front license plate?
Luckily someone already asked and Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow has a detailed answer.
Why are so many vehicles allowed to be on Minnesota roads with only a rear license plate? This seems to be especially true of late-model expensive makes (Tesla, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, etc.). Isn't the lack of a front plate a primary offense and the vehicle therefore subject to a traffic stop? I see more and more of this every day.
Sgt. Jesse Grabow’s Answer:
Minnesota law requires two license plates on a vehicle. There are some vehicles that are allowed to display only one license plate: motorcycles; a dealer’s vehicle or vehicle in-transit; a collector's vehicle with a pioneer, classic car, collector, or street rod license; a vehicle that is of model year 1972 or earlier (not registered as a collector vehicle), and is used for general transportation purpose.
License plates cannot be displayed on the front windshield or the rear window, they must be displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle. All plates must be securely fastened so as to prevent them from swinging, displayed horizontally with the identifying numbers and letters facing outward from the vehicle, and mounted in an upright position.
Sgt. Grabow continues to share that the person driving the motor vehicle shall keep the plate legible and unobstructed and free from grease, dust, or other blurring material (dirt, mud, snow, etc.) so that the lettering is plainly visible at all times. “It is unlawful to cover any assigned letters and numbers or the name of the state of origin of a license plate with any material, including any clear or colorless material that affects the plate's visibility or reflectivity. This also includes obstructing license plate brackets that block the state of issuance, and tabs.”
But the next question that comes to my mind is why do we have to have two license plates?
Sgt. Grabow states that “from a law enforcement perspective it is safer to have two plates. Witnesses and victims have helped solve crimes and saved lives because they were able to get information from the front license plate.” Some examples and situations have included:
- If an officer needs to run vehicle information, they can get the plate information from the front or rear of the vehicle.
- It makes a suspect vehicle easier to identify if it is encountered from the front or the rear.
- If a suspect vehicle is backed into a parking spot it is more easily identified.
- Identifying a suspect in a crime (from surveillance images) is easier with front and back plates (A robbery or burglary, Kidnapping or sexual assault, Homicide, and A gas drive-off).
So while many states such as Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and many more don’t require a front license plate, Minnesota does!
If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, firstname.lastname@example.org). All information is credited to Sgt. Jesse Grabow, Minnesota State Patrol and pineandlakes.com.