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Minnesota Legislature

Office of the Revisor of Statutes

Chapter 168

Section 168.12

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168.12 PLATES.
    Subdivision 1. Plates; design, visibility, periods of issuance. (a) The commissioner,
upon approval and payment, shall issue to the applicant the plates required by this chapter,
bearing the state name and an assigned vehicle registration number. The number assigned by the
commissioner 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 must be in marked contrast.
The plates must be lettered, spaced, or distinguished to suitably indicate the registration of the
vehicle according to the rules of the commissioner.
(b) When a vehicle is registered on the basis of total gross weight, the plates issued must
clearly indicate by letters or other suitable insignia the maximum gross weight for which the tax
has been paid.
(c) The plates must be so treated as to be at least 100 times brighter than the conventional
painted number plates. When properly mounted on an unlighted vehicle, the plates, when viewed
from a vehicle equipped with standard headlights, must be visible for a distance of not less than
1,500 feet and readable for a distance of not less than 110 feet.
(d) The commissioner shall issue plates for the following periods:
(1) New plates issued pursuant to section 168.012, subdivision 1, must be issued to a
vehicle for as long as the vehicle is owned by the exempt agency and the plate shall not be
transferable from one vehicle to another but the plate may be transferred with the vehicle from
one tax-exempt agency to another.
(2) Plates issued for passenger automobiles must 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
registration renewal or will become so during the registration period.
(3) Plates issued under sections 168.053 and 168.27, subdivisions 16 and 17, must be for
a seven-year period.
(4) Plates issued under subdivisions 2c and 2d and section 168.123 must be issued for
the life of the veteran under section 169.79.
(5) Plates for any vehicle not specified in clauses (1) to (3), except for trailers as hereafter
provided, must be issued for the life of the vehicle. Beginning with plates issued for the year 1981,
plates issued for trailers with a total gross weight of 3,000 pounds or less must be issued for the
life of the trailer and must be not more than seven inches in length and four inches in width.
(e) In a year in which plates are not issued, the commissioner shall issue for each registration
a sticker to designate the year of registration. This sticker must show the year or years for which
the sticker is issued, and is valid only for that period. The plates and stickers issued for a vehicle
may not be transferred to another vehicle during the period for which the sticker is issued, except
when issued for a vehicle registered under section 168.187.
(f) Despite any other provision of this subdivision, plates issued to a vehicle 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
public school shall notify the commissioner of each transfer of plates under this paragraph. The
commissioner may prescribe a format for notification.
    Subd. 2. Amateur radio licensee; special plates, rules. (a) The commissioner shall issue
amateur radio plates to an applicant who:
(1) is an owner of a passenger automobile or recreational motor vehicle;
(2) is a resident of this state;
(3) holds an official amateur radio station license or a citizens radio service class D license,
in good standing, issued by the Federal Communications Commission;
(4) pays the registration tax required under section 168.013;
(5) pays a fee of $10 for each set of special plates and any other fees required by this
chapter; and
(6) complies with this chapter and rules governing the registration of motor vehicles and
licensing of drivers;
(b) In lieu of the registration number required for identification under subdivision 1, the
plates must indicate the official amateur call letters of the applicant, as assigned by the Federal
Communications Commission, and the words "AMATEUR RADIO."
(c) This provision for the issue of special plates applies only if the applicant's motor vehicle
is already registered in Minnesota so that the applicant has valid regular Minnesota plates issued
for that motor vehicle under which to operate it during the time that it will take to have the
necessary special plates made.
(d) If 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 motor vehicles and, if each
application complies with this subdivision, the commissioner shall furnish the applicant with the
special plates, indicating the official amateur call letters and other distinguishing information as
the commissioner considers necessary, for each of the two motor vehicles.
(e) The commissioner may make reasonable rules governing the use of the special plates as
will assure the full compliance by the owner of the special plates, with all existing laws governing
the registration of motor vehicles and the transfer and use of the plates.
(f) Despite any contrary provision of subdivision 1, the special plates issued under this
subdivision may be transferred by an owner to another motor vehicle listed in paragraph (a) and
registered to the same owner, upon the payment of a fee of $5. The commissioner must be notified
before the transfer and may prescribe a format for the notification.
    Subd. 2a. Personalized plates; rules. (a) The commissioner shall issue personalized plates
or, if requested for special plates issued under section 168.123 for veterans, 168.124 for medal
of honor recipients, or 168.125 for former prisoners of war, applicable personalized special
veterans plates, to an applicant who:
(1) is an owner of a passenger automobile including a passenger automobile registered as
a classic car, pioneer car, collector car, or street rod; any truck with a manufacturer's nominal
rated capacity of one ton or less and resembling a pickup truck; a motorcycle, including a classic
motorcycle; or a recreational motor vehicle;
(2) pays a onetime fee of $100 and any other fees required by this chapter;
(3) pays the registration tax required by this chapter for the motor vehicle; and
(4) complies with this chapter and rules governing registration of motor vehicles and
licensing of drivers.
(b) The commissioner shall charge a replacement fee for personalized license plates and
personalized special veterans plates issued under section 168.123 as specified in subdivision
5. This fee must be paid by the applicant whenever the personalized plates are required to
be replaced by law, except that as provided in section 168.124, subdivision 3, and 168.125,
subdivision 1b
, no fee may be charged to replace plates issued under those sections.
(c) In lieu of the registration number assigned as provided in subdivision 1, personalized
plates and personalized special veterans plates must have imprinted on them a series of not more
than seven numbers and letters, or five numbers and letters for personalized special veterans
plates, in any combination and, as applicable, satisfy the design requirements of section 168.123,
168.124, or 168.125. When an applicant has once obtained personalized plates or personalized
special veterans plates, the applicant shall have a prior claim for similar personalized plates or
personalized special veterans plates in the next succeeding year as long as current motor vehicle
registration is maintained.
(d) The commissioner shall adopt rules in the manner provided by chapter 14, regulating the
issuance and transfer of personalized plates and personalized special veterans plates. No words
or combination of letters placed on these 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.
(e) Despite the provisions of subdivision 1, personalized plates and personalized special
veterans plates issued under this subdivision may be transferred to another motor vehicle listed in
paragraph (a) and owned by the applicant, upon the payment of a fee of $5.
(f) The commissioner may by rule specify the format for notification.
(g) A personalized plate or personalized special veterans 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 plate.
(h) Despite any law to the contrary, if the personalized license plates are lost, stolen, or
destroyed, the applicant may apply and must be issued duplicate license plates bearing the same
combination of letters and numbers and the same design as (1) the former personalized plates or
personalized special veterans plates under section 168.123 upon the payment of the fee required
by section 168.29 or (2) the former personalized special veterans plates issued under section
168.124 or 168.125, without charge.
    Subd. 2b. Firefighters; special plates, rules. (a) The commissioner shall issue special plates,
or a single license plate in the case of a motorcycle plate, to any applicant who:
(1) is both a member of a fire department receiving state aid under chapter 69 and an owner
of a passenger automobile, a truck with a manufacturer's nominal rated capacity of one ton and
resembling a pickup truck, or a motorcycle;
(2) pays a fee of $10 and any other fees required by this chapter;
(3) pays the registration tax required by this chapter for the motor vehicle; and
(4) complies with this chapter and rules governing the registration of motor vehicles and
licensing of drivers.
(b) In lieu of the identification required under subdivision 1, the special plates must bear
an emblem of a Maltese Cross together with any numbers or characters prescribed by the
commissioner. No applicant shall receive more than two sets of plates for motor vehicles owned
by the applicant.
(c) Special plates issued under this subdivision may only be used during the period that the
owner of the motor vehicle is a member of a fire department as specified in this subdivision. When
the individual to whom the special plates were issued is no longer a member of a fire department
or when the motor vehicle ownership is transferred, the owner shall remove the special plates
from the motor vehicle. Upon removal of the special plates, or special motorcycle plate, either
the owner or purchaser of the motor vehicle is entitled to receive regular plates or a regular
motorcycle plate for the motor vehicle without cost for the remainder of the registration period for
which the special plate or plates were issued.
(d) A special motorcycle license plate issued under this subdivision must be the same size as
a standard motorcycle license plate.
(e) Upon payment of a fee of $5, plates issued under this subdivision for a passenger
automobile or truck may be transferred to another passenger automobile or truck owned or jointly
owned by the person to whom the plates were issued. On payment of a fee of $5, a plate issued
under this subdivision for a motorcycle may be transferred to another motorcycle owned or jointly
owned by the person to whom the plate was issued.
(f) The commissioner 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.
    Subd. 2c. National Guard; special plates, rules. (a) The commissioner shall issue special
plates to any applicant who:
(1) 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 of a passenger
automobile;
(2) pays a fee of $10 and any other fees required by this chapter;
(3) pays the registration tax required by this chapter; and
(4) complies with this chapter and rules governing the registration of motor vehicles and
licensing of drivers.
(b) The adjutant general shall design the emblem for these special plates subject to the
approval of the commissioner.
(c) An applicant must not be issued more than two sets of plates for motor vehicles registered
to the applicant.
(d) Special plates issued under this subdivision may only be used during the period that the
owner of the motor vehicle is an active or retired member of the Minnesota National Guard as
specified in this subdivision. When the individual 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 by the owner. Upon removal of the special plates, either the owner or
purchaser of the motor vehicle is entitled to receive regular plates for the motor vehicle without
cost for the remainder of the registration period for which the special plates were issued.
(e) 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 by that
individual upon payment of a fee of $5.
(f) For purposes of this subdivision, "retired member" means an individual 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.
(g) The commissioner 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, rules. (a) The commissioner shall issue special
plates to an applicant who:
(1) is not eligible for special National Guard plates under subdivision 2c, is a member of the
United States armed forces ready reserve as described in United States Code, title 10, section
10142 or 10143, and is an owner of a passenger automobile;
(2) pays a fee of $10 and any other fees required by this chapter;
(3) pays the registration tax required by this chapter; and
(4) complies with this chapter and rules governing the registration of motor vehicles and
licensing of drivers.
(b) The commissioner of veterans affairs shall design the emblem for these special plates
subject to the approval of the commissioner.
(c) An applicant must not be issued more than two sets of plates for motor vehicles owned
by the applicant.
(d) Special plates issued under this subdivision may only be used during the period that the
owner of the motor vehicle is a member of the ready reserve. When the owner is no longer a
member, the special plates must be removed from the motor vehicle by the owner. On removing
the special plates, either the owner or purchaser of the motor vehicle is entitled to receive regular
plates for the motor vehicle without cost for the rest of the registration period for which the
special plates were issued. While the owner is a member of the ready reserve, plates issued
under this subdivision may be transferred to another motor vehicle owned by that individual
on paying a fee of $5.
(e) The commissioner 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 commissioner shall
issue special license plates to an applicant who:
(1) is a volunteer ambulance attendant as defined in section 144E.001, subdivision 15, and
owns a motor vehicle taxed as a passenger automobile;
(2) pays the registration tax required by this chapter for the motor vehicle;
(3) pays a fee of $10 and any other fees required by this chapter; and
(4) complies with this chapter and rules governing the registration of motor vehicles and
licensing of drivers.
(b) The commissioner shall not issue more than two sets of these plates to each qualified
applicant.
(c) An individual may use special plates issued under this subdivision only during the period
that the individual is a volunteer ambulance attendant. When the individual to whom the special
plates were issued ceases to be a volunteer ambulance attendant, the individual shall remove each
set of special plates issued. When ownership of the motor vehicle is transferred, the individual
shall remove the special plates from that motor vehicle. On removal of each set of plates, the
owner of the motor vehicle, or new owner in case of a transferred motor vehicle, is entitled to
receive regular plates for the motor vehicle without cost for the rest of the registration period for
which the set of special plates were issued. Special plates issued under this subdivision may be
transferred to another motor vehicle owned by the volunteer ambulance attendant on payment
of a fee of $5.
(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
plates under subdivision 1 to a motor vehicle registered and taxed as a passenger automobile,
the commissioner may assign to the motor vehicle original Minnesota registration plates issued
in the same year as the model year of the motor vehicle, if (1) the original plates are at least 20
years old, (2) the owner of the motor vehicle has the original plates in possession at the time of
the application, and (3) the owner provides the plate number to the commissioner.
(b) Plates displayed under this subdivision, including stickers applied to the plates, must
be clearly legible and must be displayed on the motor vehicle.
(c) The commissioner shall not assign the registration number on the original plates to the
motor vehicle if the commissioner determines that the number on the original plate is identical to
the number on any plate in the current or reserved numbering system used by the commissioner.
(d) Despite subdivision 1, an original plate whose number has been assigned under this
subdivision may be displayed for as long as the plates, including tabs and stickers on the plates,
are clearly legible and the number is not subsequently used by the commissioner as a plate
number in a registration numbering system.
(e) Despite subdivision 1, original plates assigned under this subdivision need not bear a tab
or sticker to indicate the month or year of registration if the motor vehicle carries the registration
certificate issued under section 168.11 at all times when the motor vehicle is operated on the
public highways.
(f) The commissioner may charge a fee for receiving an application and assigning original
plate numbers.
    Subd. 3.[Repealed, 1990 c 497 s 13]
    Subd. 4.[Repealed, 1990 c 497 s 13]
    Subd. 5. Additional fee. (a) In addition to any fee otherwise authorized or any tax otherwise
imposed upon any vehicle, the payment of which is required as a condition to the issuance of any
plate or plates, the commissioner shall impose the fee specified in paragraph (b) that is calculated
to cover the cost of manufacturing and issuing the plate or plates, except for plates issued to
disabled veterans as defined in section 168.031 and plates issued pursuant to section 168.124,
168.125, or 168.27, subdivisions 16 and 17, for passenger automobiles. The commissioner
shall issue graphic design plates only for vehicles registered pursuant to section 168.017 and
recreational vehicles registered pursuant to section 168.013, subdivision 1g.
    (b) Unless otherwise specified or exempted by statute, the following plate and validation
sticker fees apply for the original, duplicate, or replacement issuance of a plate in a plate year:
License Plate
Single
Double
Regular and Disability
$
4.50
$
6.00
Special
$
8.50
$
10.00
Personalized (Replacement)
$
10.00
$
14.00
Collector Category
$
13.50
$
15.00
Emergency Vehicle Display
$
3.00
$
6.00
Utility Trailer Self-Adhesive
$
2.50
Stickers
Duplicate year
$
1.00
$
1.00
International Fuel Tax Agreement
$
2.50
    (c) For vehicles that require two of the categories above, the registrar shall only charge the
higher of the two fees and not a combined total.
History: (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; 1Sp2001 c 8 art 2 s 32; 1Sp2003 c 19
art 2 s 21,22; 2004 c 228 art 1 s 31; 1Sp2005 c 6 art 2 s 7; 2007 c 143 art 3 s 1