The Common Law

Front license plate – do I even need it?

I recently started a new job and was driving with a co-worker. The police pulled me over. I immediately though to myself – I'm not speeding … I'm not texting … I didn't run a red light … so why am I being pulled over? The cop gave me a warning because I didn't have a front license plate. He said I will get a ticket if I don't install a front license plate. Does the law really require me to have a front license plate?

– Lily M.

Yes. Texas is one of 31 states that requires a front license plate in addition to the rear plates, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Public Safety.

There has been some debate about the required location for the front display of license plates. Specifically, the debate centers around whether the placement of the front plate in the front windshield complies with the statute. The Texas Administrative Code (Title 43, Rule 217.22) states that the front license plate must be securely fastened at the exterior front. Courts have typically interpreted this location as the front bumper.

Another curveball? These license plates must also be "well lit" at night. If a police officer cannot "clearly" see your license plates from 50 feet away, you are still in violation of the statute, and potentially at risk of being pulled over. There are a lot of reasons the police can use to pull you over. Don't let driving without both front and rear license plates be the cause.

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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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