In Ohio, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle without a white light illuminating the rear registration plate. See O.R.C. 4513.05. This law is often used as a pretext for a traffic stop which allows the officer to come into contact with the motorist. Here is a full text of the law.
4513.05 Tail lights and illumination of rear license plate.
(A) Every motor vehicle, trackless trolley, trailer, semitrailer, pole trailer, or vehicle which is being drawn at the end of a train of vehicles shall be equipped with at least one tail light mounted on the rear which, when lighted, shall emit a red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear, provided that in the case of a train of vehicles only the tail light on the rearmost vehicle need be visible from the distance specified.
Either a tail light or a separate light shall be so constructed and placed as to illuminate with a white light the rear registration plate, when such registration plate is required, and render it legible from a distance of fifty feet to the rear. Any tail light, together with any separate light for illuminating the rear registration plate, shall be so wired as to be lighted whenever the headlights or auxiliary driving lights are lighted, except where separate lighting systems are provided for trailers for the purpose of illuminating such registration plate.
(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor.
While this may seem like a trifling reason for a traffic stop, most states have similar laws. The justification for the law is that a passerby or pedestrian who sees a car should be able to identify the car by its license plate. Arguing that your car has reflective license plates is not a defense. Once the officer comes in contact he can begin a full investigation for impaired driving if he establishes reasonable and articulable suspicion to continue the detention.
Why a white light? Law enforcement does not want the light to be able to change the color of the license plate and thus enhance the possibility of misidentification of a vehicle. We have also seen cases of individuals being pulled over due to neon flashing lights on their license plates. Ohio Revised Code, section 4513.17 prohibits flashing lights on motor vehicles with the exception of emergency vehicles, turn signals, and hazard flashers.Lights must not rotate, oscillate, or flash, but state law does not prohibit the use of colored neon lights under your car as long as they do not interfere or blind other drivers. As long as the neon lights are less than 300 candle power they are not in violation of any State law. If the lights are more than 300 candle power they must be directed to strike the pavement the vehicle sets upon at a distance of no more than 75 feet. The lights can not exceed 500 candle power. Colored lights, such as neon lights around a license plate, could be illegal if the light illuminates the plate and changes the colors of the plate. State law requires a white light to illuminate the rear license plate.”
If you have questions regarding the information provided above, please contact Charles M. Rowland II by phone at 937-318-1DUI (937-318-1384), 937-879-9542, or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (1-888-769-5263).For after-hours help contact our 24/7 DUI HOTLINE at 937-776-2671. Immediate help is available by filling out the CONTACT form on any of these pages. For information about Dayton DUI sent directly to your mobile device, text DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/DaytonDUI or Get Twitterupdates via SMS by texting follow DaytonDUI to 40404. DaytonDUI is also available on Facebook and you can access updates by becoming a fan of Dayton DUI/OVI Defense. You can also email Charles Rowland at: CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or write to us at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324