Ohio Drops Front License Plate Requirement

Jul 1, 2020

Drivers are no longer required by law to have license plates on the front of their cars. The change ends a long debate over the use of front plates.

Opponents argue that front plates are unnecessary and cost the state about $1.4 million to manufacture.

Alicia Reece, a former Democratic state representative who is running for Hamilton County commissioner, is a vocal opponent of the front license plate. Reece and other critics point to studies that say the requirement of a front license plate led to racial profiling with traffic stops.

"Upscale neighborhoods and upscale cars. Most upscale cars did not come with a front license plate when you buy the car so it was disproportionately administered, it was subjective," says Reece.

The issue garnered national attention when, Sam DuBose, an unarmed black man, was pulled over for not having a front license plate by Ray Tensing, who was a University of Cincinnati police officer. Tensing shot and killed DuBose during the traffic stop.

Reece says the anti-racism demonstrations are calling for what she calls "real change" in laws that end up disproportionately impacting black people. Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati) agrees that eliminating the front license plate requirement works to that goal.

"It's one less reason to be pulled over and when we talk about doing something that makes sense, this was something," says Denson.

Law enforcement groups fought to keep the front license plate requirement, saying it helped officers with investigations.

The elimination of the front license plate requirement was added to the transportation budget in 2019 to go into effect this year on July 1.

Ohio joins Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky among the state that do not require a front license plate.