Can You Get Pulled Over for Temporary Plates on a Motorcycle?


You can get pulled over for having temporary plates on your motorcycle. Temporary plates are normally legal, but police may still pull you over to verify the plates as well as your license and information.

If you haven’t committed a violation and your temporary plates are in order, you should be able to ride off without a citation.

What Are Temporary Motorcycle Plates?

Temporary plates are a paper substitute for a permanent license plate. They’re issued by your state’s DMV but are usually placed on your motorcycle by the dealership.

They allow you to legally ride the motorcycle on public roads to take it home from the dealership and to the DMV to get it registered.

Temporary plates are usually good for a short period of time, but this period differs by state. Some last several months, others just a few weeks. Riding with temporary plates after they’ve expired is illegal, the same as riding without any plates at all.

Why Might Police Pull You Over for Temporary Plates?

Aside from having committed a traffic violation, police might pull you over for your temporary plates just to verify them. Temporary plates can be difficult for law enforcement officers to read and run from a distance, and criminals often try to use them to sneak stolen vehicles past officials. They also may just want to check that the plates aren’t expired.

Another issue is that regulations for temporary plates vary quite a bit between states. So while you may have 90 days to register your vehicle in the state you bought your motorcycle in, a police officer might pull you over for having plates older than 30 days in another. 

In fact, states may even have different time frames for out-of-state temporary plates than for their own temporary plates, so it’s important to check up on the regulations of any state you’re going to ride in and avoid interstate travel on temporary plates if you can.

How to Avoid Getting Pulled Over for Temporary Plates

In addition to following the rules of the road and riding smart, you can minimize your chances of getting pulled over for temporary plates in a couple of ways:

  • Proper display: Make sure the temporary plates are attached securely to the rear of the motorcycle so that they’re clearly visible and not obstructed by any parts of the bike or your body. Some states or cities may even have specific requirements for the placement and visibility of temporary plates, so be sure to check your local laws.
  • Quick replacement: Of course, the best way to avoid getting pulled over for temporary plates is to replace them with permanent plates as fast as possible. Keep track of the temporary plates’ expiry date and register your motorcycle at the DMV as soon as you can.

What to Do if You Get Pulled Over

If you do get pulled over for temporary plates on your motorcycle, remain calm and follow these steps:

  1. Pull over to a safe area, ideally somewhere well-lit on the right-hand side of the road.
  2. Turn off your motorcycle.
  3. Keep your hands on the handlebars and wait for the police officer to come speak to you. 
  4. The officer will likely ask for your driver’s license and proof of insurance. They may also request additional documentation related to your temporary plates, such as a bill of sale or dealership paperwork. It’s a good idea to have these on you.
  5. If necessary, explain that you have temporary plates because you recently purchased the motorcycle and are going to get it registered as soon as possible. Be polite and cooperative.

As long as your temporary plates are valid and properly displayed, the officer should not give you a citation or ticket. However, it’s important to have the necessary documentation to avoid any complications, including extra paperwork from the dealership in addition to your license.