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Minnesota Legislature

Office of the Revisor of Statutes

Chapter 168

Section 168.12

Recent History

168.12 License plates.

Subdivision 1. Number plates; design, visibility, periods of issuance. The registrar, upon the approval and payment, shall issue to the applicant the number plates required by law, bearing the state name and the number assigned. The number assigned may be a combination of a letter or sign with figures. The color of the plates and the color of the abbreviation of the state name and the number assigned shall be in marked contrast. The plates shall be lettered, spaced, or distinguished to suitably indicate the registration of the vehicle according to the rules of the registrar, and when a vehicle is registered on the basis of total gross weight, the plates issued shall clearly indicate by letters or other suitable insignia the maximum gross weight for which the tax has been paid. These number plates shall be so treated as to be at least 100 times brighter than the conventional painted number plates. When properly mounted on an unlighted vehicle, these number plates, when viewed from a vehicle equipped with standard headlights, shall be visible for a distance of not less than 1,500 feet and readable for a distance of not less than 110 feet. The registrar shall issue these number plates for the following periods:

(1) New number plates issued pursuant to section 168.012, subdivision 1, shall be issued to a vehicle for as long as it is owned by the exempt agency and shall not be transferable from one vehicle to another but may be transferred with the vehicle from one tax-exempt agency to another.

(2) Plates issued for passenger automobiles as defined in section 168.011, subdivision 7, shall be issued for a seven-year period. All plates issued under this paragraph must be replaced if they are seven years old or older at the time of annual registration or will become so during the registration period.

(3) Number plates issued under sections 168.053 and 168.27, subdivisions 16 and 17, shall be for a seven-year period.

(4) Plates for any vehicle not specified in clauses (1) to (3), except for trailers as hereafter provided, shall be issued for the life of the vehicle. Beginning with number plates issued for the year 1981, plates issued for trailers with a total gross weight of 3,000 pounds or less shall be issued for the life of the trailer and shall be not more than seven inches in length and four inches in width.

In a year in which plates are not issued, the registrar shall issue for each registration a tab or sticker to designate the year of registration. This tab or sticker shall show the calendar year or years for which issued, and is valid only for that period. The number plates, number tabs, or stickers issued for a motor vehicle may not be transferred to another motor vehicle during the period for which it is issued, except a motor vehicle registered under section 168.187.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subdivision, number plates issued to a vehicle which is used for behind-the-wheel instruction in a driver education course in a public school may be transferred to another vehicle used for the same purpose without payment of any additional fee. The registrar shall be notified of each transfer of number plates under this paragraph and may prescribe a form for notification.

Subd. 2. Amateur radio licensee; special license plates. Any applicant who is an owner or joint owner of a passenger automobile, van or pickup truck, or a self-propelled recreational vehicle, and a resident of this state, and who holds an official amateur radio station license, or a citizens radio service class D license, in good standing, issued by the Federal Communications Commission shall upon compliance with all laws of this state relating to registration and the licensing of motor vehicles and drivers, be furnished with license plates for the motor vehicle, as prescribed by law, upon which, in lieu of the numbers required for identification under subdivision 1, shall be inscribed the official amateur call letters of the applicant, as assigned by the Federal Communications Commission, and the words "AMATEUR RADIO." The applicant shall pay in addition to the registration tax required by law, the sum of $10 for the special license plates, and at the time of delivery of the special license plates the applicant shall surrender to the registrar the current license plates issued for the motor vehicle. This provision for the issue of special license plates shall apply only if the applicant's vehicle is already registered in Minnesota so that the applicant has valid regular Minnesota plates issued for that vehicle under which to operate it during the time that it will take to have the necessary special license plates made. If owning or jointly owning more than one motor vehicle of the type specified in this subdivision, the applicant may apply for special plates for each of not more than two vehicles, and, if each application complies with this subdivision, the registrar shall furnish the applicant with the special plates, inscribed with the official amateur call letters and other distinguishing information as the registrar considers necessary, for each of the two vehicles. And the registrar may make reasonable rules governing the use of the special license plates as will assure the full compliance by the owner and holder of the special plates, with all existing laws governing the registration of motor vehicles, the transfer and the use thereof.

Despite any contrary provision of subdivision 1, the special license plates issued under this subdivision may be transferred to another motor vehicle upon the payment of a fee of $5. The registrar must be notified of the transfer and may prescribe a form for the notification.

Fees collected under this subdivision must be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund.

Subd. 2a. Personalized plates; rules. Personalized license plates must be issued to an applicant for registration of a passenger automobile including a passenger automobile registered as a classic car, pioneer car, collector car, or street rod; van; pickup truck as defined in section 168.011, subdivision 29, and any other truck with a manufacturer's nominal rated capacity of one ton or less and resembling a pickup truck; motorcycle including a classic motorcycle; or self-propelled recreational vehicle, upon compliance with the laws of this state relating to registration of the vehicle and upon payment of a one-time fee of $100 in addition to the registration tax required by law for the vehicle. The registrar shall designate a replacement fee for personalized license plates that is calculated to cover the cost of replacement. This fee must be paid by the applicant whenever the personalized license plates are required to be replaced by law. In lieu of the numbers assigned as provided in subdivision 1, personalized license plates must have imprinted on them a series of not more than seven numbers and letters in any combination. When an applicant has once obtained personalized plates, the applicant shall have a prior claim for similar personalized plates in the next succeeding year as long as current registration is maintained. The commissioner of public safety shall adopt rules in the manner provided by chapter 14, regulating the issuance and transfer of personalized license plates. No words or combination of letters placed on personalized license plates may be used for commercial advertising, be of an obscene, indecent, or immoral nature, or be of a nature that would offend public morals or decency. The call signals or letters of a radio or television station are not commercial advertising for the purposes of this subdivision.

Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision 1, personalized license plates issued under this subdivision may be transferred to another motor vehicle owned or jointly owned by the applicant, upon the payment of a fee of $5, which must be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund. The registrar may by rule provide a form for notification. A personalized license plate issued for a classic car, pioneer car, collector car, street rod, or classic motorcycle may not be transferred to a vehicle not eligible for such a license plate.

Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, if the personalized license plates are lost, stolen, or destroyed, the applicant may apply and shall receive duplicate license plates bearing the same combination of letters and numbers as the former personalized plates upon the payment of the fee required by section 168.29.

Fees from the sale of permanent and duplicate personalized license plates must be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund.

Subd. 2b. Firefighters; special license plate. The registrar shall issue special license plates to any applicant who is both a member of a fire department receiving state aid under chapter 69 and an owner or joint owner of a passenger automobile, or truck with a manufacturer's nominal rated capacity of one ton and resembling a pickup truck, upon payment of a fee of $10 and upon payment of the registration tax required by law for the vehicle and compliance with other laws of this state relating to registration and licensing of motor vehicles and drivers. In lieu of the identification required under subdivision 1, the special license plates shall be inscribed with a symbol of a Maltese Cross together with five numbers. No applicant shall receive more than two sets of plates for vehicles owned or jointly owned by the applicant.

Special plates issued under this subdivision may only be used during the period that the owner or joint owner of the vehicle is a member of a fire department as specified in this subdivision. When the person to whom the special plates were issued is no longer a member of a fire department or when the vehicle ownership is transferred, the special license plates shall be removed from the vehicle and returned to the registrar. Upon return of the special plates, the owner or purchaser of the vehicle is entitled to receive regular plates for the vehicle without cost for the remainder of the registration period for which the special plates were issued. Firefighter license plates issued pursuant to this subdivision may be transferred to another motor vehicle upon payment of $5, which fee shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund.

The commissioner of public safety may adopt rules under the Administrative Procedure Act, sections 14.001 to 14.69, to govern the issuance and use of the special plates authorized in this subdivision. All fees from the sale of special license plates for firefighters shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund.

Subd. 2c. National guard; special plates. The registrar shall issue special license plates to any applicant who is a regularly enlisted, commissioned, or retired member of the Minnesota national guard, other than an inactive member who is not a retired member, and is an owner or joint owner of a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck included within the definition of a passenger automobile upon payment of a fee of $10, payment of the registration tax required by law, and compliance with other laws of this state relating to registration and licensing of motor vehicles and drivers. The adjutant general shall design these special plates subject to the approval of the registrar. No applicant shall be issued more than two sets of plates for vehicles owned or jointly owned by the applicant. The adjutant general shall estimate the number of special plates that will be required and submit the estimate to the registrar.

Special plates issued under this subdivision may only be used during the period that the owner or joint owner of the vehicle is an active or retired member of the Minnesota national guard as specified in this subdivision. When the person to whom the special plates were issued is no longer an active or retired member of the Minnesota national guard, the special plates must be removed from the vehicle and returned to the registrar. Upon return of the special plates, the owner or purchaser of the vehicle is entitled to receive regular plates for the vehicle without cost for the remainder of the registration period for which the special plates were issued. While the person is an active or retired member of the Minnesota national guard, plates issued pursuant to this subdivision may be transferred to another motor vehicle owned or jointly owned by that person upon payment of a fee of $5.

For purposes of this subdivision, "retired member" means a person placed on the roll of retired officers or roll of retired enlisted members in the office of the adjutant general under section 192.18 and who is not deceased.

All fees collected under the provisions of this subdivision shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund.

The registrar may adopt rules under the Administrative Procedure Act to govern the issuance and use of the special plates authorized by this subdivision.

Subd. 2d. Ready reserve; special plates. The registrar shall issue special license plates to an applicant who is not eligible for special license plates under subdivision 2c, who is a member of the United States armed forces ready reserve as described in United States Code, title 10, section 268, and is an owner or joint owner of a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck, on paying a fee of $10, paying the registration tax required by law, and complying with other laws of this state relating to registration and licensing of motor vehicles and drivers. The commissioner of veterans affairs shall design these special plates subject to the approval of the registrar. No applicant may be issued more than two sets of plates for vehicles owned or jointly owned by the applicant. The commissioner of veterans affairs shall estimate the number of special plates that will be required and submit the estimate to the registrar.

Special plates issued under this subdivision may only be used during the period that the owner or joint owner of the vehicle is a member of the ready reserve. When the person is no longer a member, the special plates must be removed from the vehicle and returned to the registrar. On returning the special plates, the owner or purchaser of the vehicle is entitled to receive regular plates for the vehicle without cost for the rest of the registration period for which the special plates were issued. While the person is a member of the ready reserve, plates issued under this subdivision may be transferred to another motor vehicle owned or jointly owned by that person on paying a fee of $5.

The fees collected under this subdivision must be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund.

The registrar may adopt rules under the Administrative Procedure Act to govern the issuance and use of the special plates authorized by this subdivision.

Subd. 2e. Volunteer ambulance attendants; special plates. (a) The registrar shall issue special license plates to an applicant who is a volunteer ambulance attendant as defined in section 144E.001, subdivision 15, and who owns or jointly owns a motor vehicle taxed as a passenger automobile. The registrar shall issue the special plates on payment of the registration tax required by law for the vehicle, compliance with all other applicable laws relating to registration and licensing of motor vehicles and drivers, and payment of an additional fee of $10. The registrar shall not issue more than one set of these plates to each qualified applicant.

(b) A person may use special plates issued under this subdivision only during the period that the person is a volunteer ambulance attendant. When the person to whom the special plates were issued ceases to be a volunteer ambulance attendant, or when ownership of the vehicle is transferred, the person shall remove the special plates from the vehicle and return them to the registrar. On return of the plates, the owner of the vehicle, or new owner in case of a transferred vehicle, is entitled to receive regular license plates for the vehicle without cost for the rest of the registration period for which the special plates were issued. Special plates issued under this subdivision may be transferred to another vehicle owned by the volunteer ambulance attendant on payment of a fee of $5.

(c) The fees specified in this subdivision must be paid into the state treasury and deposited in the highway user tax distribution fund.

(d) The commissioner may adopt rules governing the design, issuance, and sale of the special plates authorized by this subdivision.

Subd. 2f. Original license plates. (a) On application of the owner and in lieu of issuing license plates under subdivision 1 to a vehicle registered and taxed as a passenger automobile, the registrar may assign to the vehicle original Minnesota number plates issued in the same year as the model year of the vehicle, if (1) the original license plates are at least 20 years old, (2) the owner of the vehicle has the original license plates in possession at the time of the application, and (3) the owner provides the license plate number to the registrar.

(b) License plates displayed under this subdivision, including tabs and stickers applied to the plates, must be clearly legible and must be displayed at the front and rear of the vehicle.

(c) The registrar shall not assign the number on the original license plates to the vehicle if the registrar determines that the number on the original plate is identical to the number on any current license plate in the numbering system used by the registrar. A person currently using license plates issued by the registrar on the vehicle shall return those license plates to the registrar before displaying original license plates under this subdivision.

(d) Notwithstanding subdivision 1, an original license plate whose number has been assigned under this subdivision may be displayed for as long as the license plates, including tabs and stickers on the plates, are clearly legible.

(e) Notwithstanding subdivision 1, original license plates assigned under this subdivision need not bear a tab or sticker to indicate the month or year of registration if the vehicle carries the registration certificate issued under section 168.11 at all times when the vehicle is operated on the public highways.

(f) The registrar may charge a fee for receiving an application and assigning original license plate numbers.

Subd. 3. Repealed, 1990 c 497 s 13

Subd. 4. Repealed, 1990 c 497 s 13

Subd. 5. Additional fee. In addition to any fee otherwise authorized or any tax otherwise imposed upon any motor vehicle, the payment of which is required as a condition to the issuance of any number license plate or plates, the commissioner of public safety may impose a fee that is calculated to cover the cost of manufacturing and issuing the license plate or plates, except for license plates issued to disabled veterans as defined in section 168.031 and license plates issued pursuant to section 168.124, 168.125, or 168.27, subdivisions 16 and 17, for passenger automobiles. Graphic design license plates shall only be issued for vehicles registered pursuant to section 168.017 and recreational vehicles registered pursuant to section 168.013, subdivision 1g.

Fees collected under this subdivision must be paid into the state treasury and credited to the highway user tax distribution fund.

HIST: (2678) 1921 c 461 s 7; 1923 c 418 s 7; 1951 c 628 s 1; 1955 c 396 s 1-3; Ex1961 c 5 s 1; 1963 c 125 s 1,2; 1965 c 149 s 1; 1967 c 46 s 1; 1971 c 716 s 1; 1973 c 218 s 7; 1975 c 245 s 1; 1975 c 248 s 1; 1976 c 343 s 5; 1977 c 108 s 2; 1977 c 347 s 27; 1978 c 636 s 1; 1980 c 372 s 1; 1981 c 357 s 55,56; 1981 c 363 s 21,22; 1982 c 424 s 130; 1982 c 467 s 1; 1983 c 19 s 1,2; 1983 c 195 s 1; 1983 c 318 s 1; 1984 c 549 s 16-18; 1985 c 248 s 70; 1Sp1985 c 10 s 76,77; 1986 c 444; 1987 c 384 art 2 s 1; 1988 c 636 s 3; 1988 c 647 s 6-8; 1989 c 140 s 8,9; 1990 c 422 s 10; 1990 c 497 s 5; 1991 c 274 s 2,3; 1991 c 333 s 6,7; 1992 c 581 s 6,7; 1993 c 214 s 2; 1993 c 281 s 3; 1994 c 443 s 1; 1994 c 465 art 3 s 16; 1994 c 536 s 9; 1995 c 145 s 1; 1996 c 435 s 7,8; 1996 c 455 art 4 s 3; 1997 c 199 s 14; 1998 c 405 s 1; 1999 c 8 s 4