If you haven't noticed this lately, you certainly will now. I have been seeing a lot of Iowa registered vehicles without front license plates. I always thought you were required to have both considering the state gives you two.

After some digging online and talking with a few friends in law enforcement in Iowa, I found the answer.

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When you register a vehicle in the state of Iowa, you always receive two license plates. One for the front and one for the rear. When I first started driving, I was told that you can get pulled over for not having a front and/or rear license plate which makes me think that people without a front plate weren't told the same thing, or the laws have changed in Iowa.

I can tell you right now, the laws have not changed in Iowa when it comes to displaying both the front and rear license plates. According to the Iowa Legislature, Iowa Law 321.37 reads,

1. Registration plates issued for a motor vehicle other than an autocycle, motorcycle, motorized bicycle, or truck tractor shall be attached to the motor vehicle, one in the front and the other in the rear. The registration plate issued for an autocycle, motorcycle, or other vehicle required to be registered hereunder shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle. The registration plate issued for a truck tractor shall be attached to the front of the truck tractor. The special plate issued to a dealer shall be attached on the rear of the vehicle when operated on the highways of this state.

2. Registration plates issued for a motor vehicle which is model year 1948 or older, and reconstructed or specially constructed vehicles built to resemble a model year 1948 vehicle or older, other than a truck registered for more than five tons, autocycle, motorcycle, or truck tractor, may display one registration plate on the rear of the vehicle if the other registration plate issued to the vehicle is carried in the vehicle at all times when the vehicle is operated on a public highway.

3. It is unlawful for the owner of a vehicle to place any frame around or over the registration plate which does not permit full view of all numerals and letters printed on the registration plate.

To answer the question in a simple form, yes it is required in Iowa to have both a front and back plate displayed on a vehicle registered in Iowa. If the vehicle is a 1948 or older, the vehicle may have just one plate displayed in the back.

Since we are seeing a lot of Iowa registered vehicles without front license plates, can you get pulled over for not having one? I spoke with one of my buddies who is a police officer in the state of Iowa and he said this,

"Yes, you can/could be stopped for not having a front license plate on a vehicle registered in Iowa. You would be in violation of Iowa code 321.37."

If you are stopped for failing to display a front license plate it could result in a citation that is around $120.

Being pulled over for simply not having a license plate could change though. Iowa Senate Bill 419 passed on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 by a vote of 29-17 which would make the failure to display a front plate a secondary offense. The bill would expand the number of vehicles that aren't required to display a front license plate.

Senate Bill 419 is still waiting to be passed through the Iowa House to be sent to the Governor.

For the mean time, if your vehicle is registered in Iowa, you need both license plates. If you don't have a front and/or license plate without a temporary license on the vehicle, you can be pulled over and ticketed.

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