Joshua Rhett Miller
May 7, 2014
It might be time to reconsider that license plate frame boasting your allegiance to your favorite baseball team, charitable cause or alma mater, especially if you’re driving in The Hawkeye State.
The Iowa Supreme Court just ruled that drivers whose cars display the frames can be stopped if they obscure the small print below the plate numbers. The decision ended a five-year court battle stemming from the 2009 traffic stop of a man suspected of dealing drugs based on information from a confidential informant. The court ruled 5-2 last week that a 1984 law requiring drivers to “permit full view of all numerals and letters” on the plate includes the county name.
“While a person who sees a driver commit a crime may not be able to remember a complete license plate number, the person may be more easily able to recall the county name,” Justice Thomas Waterman wrote. “This would narrow the search to identify the vehicle. The county name on a plate also shows whether a vehicle is registered locally or not, which may be relevant in identifying suspicious behavior.”