Have you ever been pulled over when you weren’t doing anything wrong? At least that you knew of…

That happened to me a few weeks ago. Let me tell you a little story.

Tagging Your Pickup in Missouri

no license plate on back

In Missouri, if you drive a 12,000 pound pickup or larger, they issue you one license plate, and it goes on the front of your vehicle. That’s because they assume you’re going to be towing something. What good does a license plate do on the back of your pickup if you can’t see it anyway?

It’s actually pretty clever on Missouri’s part. It saves them a lot of money printing two plates.

If you’re from Missouri, you may or may not know this already, but it’s a fairly common occurrence to see pickup trucks without license plates on the back bumper.

When I went to tag the truck, the lady who helped me gave me one plate. I asked her, just to be sure, where it was supposed to go. She told me it need to go on the front. Great. That’s what I thought.

Do you see where this is going?

How it Started

It had been a pretty rough December already. We’d experienced a couple of deaths in the family, our bunny was sick, and my vacuum was on its last legs. I decided I didn’t really want to cook dinner, so I headed out to the only Target in the area (30 minutes away) that had the vacuum I wanted in stock, then I was going to go pick up dinner.

I go to Target, and they didn’t have my vacuum in stock. The worst! So I settled for something different, because I was already frustrated, I had three kids in tow, and I didn’t want to run all over town.

We checked out and headed back toward the highway.

As I sat in the lane to I-10 East, a car pulls up behind me. The sun was setting, and it was dusk.

All of a sudden, a light brighter than the sun is shining in my rearview mirror, and I realize it’s a police officer behind me, shining his spotlight on the back of my pickup.

That’s strange, I thought. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

And then it dawned on me. I don’t have a license plate back there. I bet I’m going to get pulled over.

It was inevitable. I knew it would happen eventually, because we travel so much, and the laws are different for every state. In fact, Missouri is an anomaly. Most states require the license plate on the back.

The Exchange

Rudolph the Red Nosed Truckdeer

Sure enough, the light turns green, we round the corner, and the cop turns on his lights. Dang it.

Luckily, I’m in the right turn lane, so I pull over onto the shoulder of the entrance ramp and stop. The officer comes over to the passenger side window, and here’s how it goes:

Officer: Hello, Ma’am. I’m Officer **** from the Goodyear Police Department. I pulled you over because you don’t have a license plate.

Me, smiling sweetly as I anticipate what he’s saying: Oh, it’s on the front. I’m from Missouri.

Officer: Oh, really?

Me: Yes. In Missouri, if you drive a 12,000 pound pickup or larger, they only issue you one plate and it goes on the front.

O: Oh, really?

Me: Yes.

O: Oh. I’m not familiar with Missouri law. Give me just a moment.

I chuckle as he walks to the front of the pickup and radios my plate number in. He comes back to the window as he wants on a response.

O: In Arizona, the law says you’re required to have a license plate on the back.

Me: That makes sense. At home, I’d get pulled over for having my license plate on the back.

O: Do you pull something?

Me: Yes, I have a fifth-wheel. They require that you put it on the front because when I’m pulling the fifth-wheel, you can’t see it.

O: That makes so much sense!

Me, laughing: It really does.

O, as he listens to his ear piece: Okay, your registration came back good. Thanks for the education. Have a great night and Happy Holidays!

Me: You, too!

The Lesson

I doubt this is the last time this will happen. I doubt he is the only police officer who isn’t familiar with the law in another state. Why would they be? That’s really not their job, and I don’t expect them to be.

He was friendly, I was friendly, and it ended well.

However, what I learned was that when you travel a lot, the chances of you getting pulled over for strange reasons is greater. Who knows why? There are any number of reasons why someone might assume you’re doing something you shouldn’t.

Take it all in stride and go with the flow. That’s what this life is all about.

However, I had to share this experience because I’ll probably chuckle about it for a good long while.

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