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Ask A Cop: License Plate Display October 28, 2009

Posted by southbendpolice in Ask A Cop.
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Here is one I briefly touched on a couple weeks ago in the Quick 3, but I will expand upon it to provide you the best answer!
Q: I purchased a new Truck and have a temp. paper tag on the inside of the back window. I was stopped and given a Warning ticket for improper display of a License plate (Ind. Code 9-18-2-26). This code has nothing to do with a temp paper tag. The Officer first stated that I needed to place the paper tag on the rear of my truck. Out of all the cars and trucks I have brought all the 30 day temp. paper tags were displayed on an inside back window. So what is the proper way to display a temp. paper tag??

A: The IC Code 9-18-2-26 you mention covers plate display, but another important code to remember for license plates also requires that the plates MUST be illuminated at night. As such, if a plate is in the back window on a vehicle, chances are it will not be properly illuminated and as such will be found in violation of the statute.

Therefore, a proper plate display must meet the criteria below. If not the driver of the vehicle can be cited and ticketed for an improper plate display. If the dealer tapes it in the window, it still will not meet the proper illumination criteria. Temporary license plates should be placed where the standard plates should go on your given vehicle.

On a related note, many motorcycles are now fastening plates to the vertical position on the bike. This is also improper and you could be cited as well. Put the plates on the correct, horizontal way, and make sure they are illuminated at night.

From recent IN case law upholding this law: (Meredith V. State)

Specifically, Indiana Code Section 9-18-2-26(a)(3) (2005) states, in relevant part:
(a) License plates shall be displayed as follows:
* * *
(3) For every other vehicle, upon the rear of the vehicle.
(b) A license plate shall be securely fastened, in a horizontal position, to the vehicle for which the plate is issued:
(1) to prevent the license plate from swinging;
(2) at a height of at least twelve (12) inches from the ground, measuring from the bottom of the license plate;
(3) in a place and position that are clearly visible;
(4) maintained free from foreign materials and in a condition to be clearly legible; and
(5) not obstructed or obscured by tires, bumpers, accessories, or other opaque objects.
(c) The bureau [of motor vehicles] may adopt rules the bureau considers advisable to enforce the proper mounting and securing of license plates on vehicles consistent with this chapter.

And Indiana Code Section 9-19-6-4(e) requires motor vehicles to have the rear registration plate illuminated such that “the plate [is] clearly legible from a distance of fifty (50) feet to the rear.”