In Ohio, drivers are required to have two license plates: one in the front and one in the back. However, recent events have put this policy under scrutiny as many people have questioned whether such laws allow police to use minor traffic violations as an excuse for racial profiling — or even escalating accusations, searches without cause, or violent clashes. Research has shown this argument to have validity, and the shooting of an unarmed African-American man during such a routine traffic stop has again brought attention to this problem.
In July 2015, Samuel DuBose was pulled over for not having a front license plate. The situation escalated during his traffic stop, ending with then-University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing shooting and killing DuBose, despite the fact that he was not armed. This incident sparked backlash from the community and many have since proposed reforms to the laws requiring a front license plate that allowed Tensing to pull DuBose over in the first place. According to legislators supporting license plate reform, such legislation would limit the chance of potentially violent encounters between police and drivers — especially those of color.
Two License Plate Reform Laws Being Discussed
The most recent license plate reform proposal came from Democratic State Sen. Cecil Thomas. Thomas has proposed the Dubose Was a Beacon Act, which would make driving without a front license plate a secondary violation. If passed, police could only cite drivers for lacking front plates if there were another reason to stop them, such as speeding or running a stop sign.
Thomas’s legislation follows a bill that was proposed in April that would eliminate the need to have a front license plate at all. While originally suggested as a cost-cutting measure, as well as a way to get state law in line with surrounding states (as Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania all only require rear plates), the law has been put in the spotlight following the shooting of DuBose as a reform that could minimize the need for minor traffic stops.
Although it is still unclear if either of these laws will be passed, the current debate over Ohio front license plate law reform continues to grow in strength. While there are both pros and cons to front license plates, it is at least clear that a minor traffic stop for a missing license plate should not lead to use of lethal force and should not be an excuse for racial profiling. Until such reform is passed, motorists should take care to follow the law and use both plates.
Got a Ticket? Our Cincinnati Traffic Attorneys Can Help
In the meantime, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, whether serious or relatively simple, you may need legal help. Call the Cincinnati traffic attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates today for a free consultation on your case at (513) 338-1890 and learn how we may be able to help.