Texas Transportation Code section 502.404(a) requires that a motor vehicle "display two license plates, at the 'front' and rear of the vehicle." Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 502.404(a). The code does not define the "front" of a vehicle.
In State v. Losoya, 128 S.W.3d 413 (Tex. App. - Austin 2004, pet. ref'd) the Court of Appeals decided an issue very similar to that of my callers. In Losoya, the police testified they had noticed a pickup did not have a license plate mounted on the front bumper. Instead, the plate was wedged between the dashboard and windshield. As a result, the police stopped the vehicle believing a traffic violation had occurred. At the suppression hearing the police officer added he could see the license plate in the truck's front window.
The court found the term "front" ambiguous and looked to other factors to determine the meaning of the code section. The court said:
"While a place to display the license plate is usually found on the front bumper, the statute does not expressly require the use of this location. The display of the plate in some other place or manner is not inconsistent with the language or purpose of the statute. The officers testified that they could see the license plate in the windshield. We conclude that Losoya's display of his front license plate in the manner shown here did not violate section 502.404(a) as to give the officers grounds to reasonably suspect a violation of that statute."Each of my callers should benefit from the decision in Losoya. Each detention should be challenged by a motion to suppress evidence based upon an illegal traffic stop. If the facts are close to those in Losoya, they should prevail and the incriminating evidence obtained by the police should be excluded from each case.