Most vehicles require two license plates

I enjoy reading your column in the Tribune — you provide info and some humor about driving situations. My question is regarding license plates. I see more and more vehicles with the plate only on the back of the car. Has the law changed? The driver's manual says that a front and rear plate are required unless it's a specialty or antique car. Most of the cars I see without the front plate are Mercedes, BMWs and Audis — are they exempt?

— Roberta L.

No, the law hasn't changed. Oregon Revised Statute 803.525 defines the number of plates issued by Driver and Motor Vehicle Services. It says the Department of Transportation shall issue two registration plates for every vehicle that is registered except for a moped, motorcycle, trailer, antique vehicle, camper or vehicle of special interest, when only one plate must be issued.

ORS 803.540 then defines the violation for failing to display plates. It says, in part, if a person operates on the highway (meaning this law doesn't apply to private property or parking lots) any vehicle or camper that has been assigned registration plates by this state, then:

  • The plate must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle, if only one plate is required.
  • Plates must be displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle if two plates are required.
  • The plates must be in plain view and easily read by the public.

A driver is not in violation of the above if his vehicle or camper has a temporary application permit. If the driver is found in violation, he will be issued a Class D ticket, which carries a $94 bail.

I haven't noticed an overabundance of plates missing on the brands of vehicles you mentioned, but I do know that sometimes the issue is problematic because the vehicle isn't manufactured with a bracket or place to put a front plate. Some models of Corvettes and Cameros come to mind as an example. Often the driver will put a plate in the front windshield, which is usually an improper display. In those cases the officer will have to use his judgment on how to handle the issue.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail

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