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COURT RULING: License Plate Frame Could Get You Pulled Over

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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.


  • peter

    Who really cares as long as u can see month sticker and all the plate numbers. Really why does it matter?

  • Rebecca Hergert

    All you need is the plate number to run the plates. Not the county.
    We got a lot of lawyers in this country. I see them having a field with this.
    You cannot search people vehicles without a warrant!!

  • Trevor

    I’m sure our government has better things to do like get our economy out of the shitter. Our cops also should have a lot more important things to do. Like get the gang bangers and drugs off the streets. Cops already think they are studs and can do whatever they want. Watch the news the cops are the true law breakers anymore extremely corrupt. Well I live in a town where all the cop cars have frames around their plates the cover the county. So before they pull over a car with it cover they better uncover there’s. This is no longer a free country. I’m just waiting to see when they are going to start telling us when we can and cant use the restroom.

  • RoccoB

    I don’t understand this at all.
    Who cares what county a car is from?
    Cops run your plates first.not the damned country name.
    Obvious a it’s a bullcrap reason for cops to pull over citizens.
    What’s next? Puled over for too much spare change in ash tray?

  • LKM

    It just gives them another reason to pull you over and give you a ticket so they can make their quota for the month!

  • Rebecca Hergert

    Well, here’s the thing!
    You don’t enforce It!!
    I didn’t see a cop all morning in Boone/hwy#30.
    I had a guy in a charcoal color car that pass me on mamie between the court-house & the school. I guess I was going too slow for him.
    I get tired being the cop/Mayor/Senator/Governor here!!

  • Troy Hendrickson

    I suggest all retailers who are now stuck with license plate frames which are now essentially illegal sue the state of Iowa for their losses. Similar to how businesses were allowed to sue over the touch play issue.

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