Does Maryland Require Front License Plates?

Yes, you almost always have to have a front and rear license plate attached to your vehicle if you are driving in Maryland.
Written by Sean Boehme
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
background
Yes,
Maryland
requires drivers to have two visible
license plates
on their vehicles—one on the front of the vehicle and one on the back. But there are exceptions to this rule for certain classes of vehicles, including motorcycles and tractors. 
  • The state of Maryland requires drivers to display two license plates on their vehicles—one on the front and one on the rear—with only a few exceptions based on vehicle class.
  • Failure to display both plates can result in a $70 fine.
  • Front license plates help law enforcement identify stolen vehicles which is important in areas with higher vehicle theft rates, like
    Baltimore
    .

Front license plate requirements in Maryland

You almost always have to have a front and rear license plate attached to your vehicle if you are driving in Maryland. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, all based on vehicle class.
Maryland vehicle law
specifically states that both the front bumper and the rear of the vehicle must be equipped with a permanent and legible registration plate at all times. If you lose your license plate or the sticker becomes illegible, you must acquire a new plate as soon as you can.
During the time you are without one of the registration plates, you are expected to attach a temporary plate displaying your registration number. If you’re in need of a temporary front tag for your car, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) will issue one for a $20 fee.

Exemptions

The exceptions to the “two-plate rule” in Maryland are entirely dependent on vehicle class. 
Vehicles that are permitted on the road with just one registration plate include:
  • Tractors (Class F)
  • Trailers (Class G)
  • Motorcycles (Class D)
  • Street rods (Class N) and historic cars (Class L) that are 50+ years old
The bottom line: If you drive a car that was manufactured in the past 50 years, it’s safe to assume that you must have front and back plates at all times. If you’ve got a car that’s 50 years or older, you may be able to go without registration plates in the front.
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Penalties for driving without a front license plate in Maryland

If you fail to properly display either your front or back license plate, you can expect to pay a fine of $70 in Maryland. You’ll pay the same fine if you put a license plate cover on your license plate since that is illegal in the state.
The $70 fine assumes that you don’t have the plate attached or visible—not that there is an issue with
your vehicle registration
. Driving with an unregistered vehicle is a much more serious offense that could carry a heftier fine. 
It’s worth noting that lawmakers in Maryland have discussed removing the front license plate requirement for drivers within the state. However, you should always drive with a front and back plate unless you receive official word that it’s no longer necessary. 
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US state that do not require a front license plate

Many states do not require a front license plate, many of which are located in the southern portion of the United States. You can find a full list of these 19 states below:
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Why Maryland requires front license plates

Although front license plates often aren’t visually appealing, they do have several benefits for law enforcement to take advantage of.
Police officers are much more likely to locate a
stolen vehicle
if they can identify the license plate on both the front and back of it. So even if you’re unhappy with the laws in Maryland, there is a chance state police could help you out if something happens to your vehicle.

States with the highest car theft rates

According to data from the FBI, Maryland sees about 186.2 thefts per 100,000 people. Although that’s a reasonably low number compared to other states, it’s still a good reason for Maryland to keep its “two-plate rule.”
Some of Maryland's denser metropolitan areas also experience a higher vehicle theft rate than the average in the state. For example, Baltimore has a reported vehicle theft rate of 239.9 thefts per 100,000 people, which means the license plate laws there are even more beneficial. 
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