COURT RULING: License Plate Frame Could Get You Pulled Over

The Iowa Supreme Court says police officers can legally stop any vehicle that has a frame covering the county name on a license plate.

The court issued its five to two ruling Friday.

The decision backs undercover Davenport officers who used the issue to justify stopping a man who they suspected of drug dealing back in July of 2009.

A dissenting judge says the stance is too strict.

“For the thousands of Iowans who have a frame that promotes a sports team, or an auto dealer, or have a nice (or not so nice) slogan, beware! If the license plate frame happens to obscure the county name on the plate, the State will take the position that police may stop the vehicle anywhere and at any time, whether one is dropping the kids off at school, returning home from the football game, or on the way to work, without any further sign of criminal wrongdoing,” Justice Brent Appel wrote.

Justice Daryl Hecht co-signed the dissent.

The ruling could impact a large number of drivers. License plate covers are everywhere. In many cases, dealers put them on when you buy a car. But some Iowa plates don’t even have county names like sports license plates. However, they’re exempt from the law.

“As silly as that may seem to some people, a lot of people I’m sure, that’s part of the law,” Des Moines police Sgt. Jason Halifax confirmed.

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