The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that a “ball hitch” – used to attach trailers to passenger vehicles – does not legally interfere with license plates under Iowa law.
In contrast, the Ohio law requiring unobstructed rear view license plates likely prevents a driver from having a ball hitch behind the license plate in the rear of a passenger vehicle.
License plates in Ohio must be in plain view of vehicles behind or traveling behind a passenger vehicle. “Clear view” is basically defined as the ability to be seen under normal weather conditions. The law understands that foggy, dark, or rainy or snowy weather can make a plate and sticker a bit harder to see and read.
Owners and operators of moving vehicles that do not have valid rear-facing plates in plain sight may be held liable for a violation of Ohio law. A vehicle that is not moving must also have a valid license plate that can be seen in plain view.
Additionally, license plates must also display the current and applicable county identification sticker prominently. A license plate cannot display expired, old, or antique county identification stickers. So when applying a new sticker to a license plate, that sticker must legally be placed on top of the old sticker, preventing the old sticker from being visible.
Obviously, to ensure an “unobstructed view” of a license plate and its sticker, the plate and sticker must not be “covered by any material that obstructs” the visibility of the license plate and its sticker.
Therefore, license plate covers and license plate surrounds should be minimal enough not to affect the unobstructed view of the plate and sticker. Obviously, license plates should also be free of snow, dirt and salt that could obstruct the view of the plate and sticker.
In addition, license plates and stickers must be “solidly attached”, i.e. attached to the vehicle in such a way that the license plate does not “swing”. A slightly bent license plate or a license plate attached to a vehicle by a single bolt or screw that does not pivot is considered securely attached.
License plates must also be illuminated or illuminated by at least one light emitting only white light. License plate illumination intensity is defined as making the license plate and sticker visible from a distance of 50 feet from the rear of the vehicle. Any light other than white that illuminates a license plate is illegal.
Anyone who violates the Full View License Plates and Decals Act or the White-Lit License Plates and Decals Act is guilty of a misdemeanor. Either offense is sufficient cause for law enforcement to stop a vehicle.
License plates and decals that are not in plain view are automatic violations of the law, even if the driver or vehicle owner is unaware of the license plate “swinging” or decal. license plate and sticker obstruction.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney with Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agricultural matters in Northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to be used as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based on the specific facts and circumstances facing you.