Cue up that classic Judas Priest song Breaking the Law. Cuz if you're operating a motor vehicle in the state of Iowa without this, you're very likely doing just that. And as someone who drives about two hours a day, I've seen a LOT of Iowans breaking this law.

The law I'm talking about is the requirement to have two license plates on your vehicle. That's the rear one, which most everyone has, and... one on the front of your car/truck, too.

Why am I bringing this up? It's obvious you say? Well, it must not be because I have seen so many vehicles without a front plate. This prompted me to do some research. Had a law changed? Did I miss something? Can I pitch my front plate?

The answer is no. However, the debate did resurface again in 2019 during that year's legislative session. Before we get into what's being proposed, here is the current rule made very, very simple (as per Tom Fowler Law): Iowa law, as of 2022, requires you to have your state-issued license plates mounted to the front and back sections of just about every vehicle. The only exception? Historic cars from 1948 or earlier.

Currently, Iowa is one of 31 U.S. states that require drivers to have both front and back license plates according to Tom Fowler Law.

Hope this driver isn't living in Iowa! Photo by Lee Chinyama on Unsplash
Hope this driver isn't living in Iowa! Photo by Lee Chinyama on Unsplash

As shown above, unless you're driving a really really classic car, your whip needs to have BOTH plates. And while this is being debated, and there was a push to make Iowa not require a front plate, it's very unlikely this will ever pass.

To confirm I hadn't missed anything, I reached out to Black Hawk Sheriff Tony Thompson, who'd certainly know. I reached out via email, and he sent me this confirmation,


So, it is illegal to fail to display a front license plate in Iowa for any vehicle not deemed an antique.  Several legislative efforts have been made to change this law, but as of yet, no changes have been implemented.

So does Sherriff Thompson think this will change in near future or... ever? He does not, and there's a good reason why that is,

One of the biggest deterrents to changing the law is school bus violations and the cameras that capture this violation only capture the front plates from the stop arm. The Iowa Code is 321.37 Display of Plates.

So there you go, if you're one of the many motorists that lately have not been sporting a front plate, you're breaking the law. Unless your car is from 1948 or prior. No front plate? Police can likely assume you're trying to avoid speed cameras or other enforcement. If caught, you could face a $120 fine according to Tom Fowler Law.

Drive safe!

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