61-3-332. Standard license plates. (1) In addition to special license plates, collegiate license plates, generic specialty license plates, and fleet license plates authorized under this chapter, a separate series of standard license plates must be issued for motor vehicles, quadricycles, travel trailers, trailers, semitrailers, and pole trailers registered in this state or offered for sale by a vehicle dealer licensed in this state. Standard license plates issued to licensed vehicle dealers must be readily distinguishable from license plates issued to vehicles owned by other persons.
(2) (a) Except as provided in 61-3-479 and subsections (2)(b), (3)(b), and (3)(c) of this section, all standard license plates for motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers must bear a distinctive marking, as determined by the department, and be furnished by the department. In years when standard license plates are not reissued for a vehicle, the department shall provide a registration decal that must be affixed to the rear license plate of the vehicle.
(b) For light vehicles that are permanently registered as provided in 61-3-562 and motor vehicles described in 61-3-303(9) that are permanently registered, the department shall provide a distinctive registration decal indicating that the motor vehicle is permanently registered. The registration decal must be affixed to the rear license plate of the permanently registered motor vehicle.
(c) For a travel trailer, motorcycle, quadricycle, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer that is permanently registered as provided in 61-3-313(2), the department may use the word or an abbreviation for the word "permanent" on the plate in lieu of issuing a registration decal for the plate.
(3) (a) (i) New license plates issued under 61-3-303 or this section must be a standard license plate design first issued in 1989 or later or current collegiate or generic specialty license plate designs. For the purposes of this subsection (3), all military, veteran, and amateur radio license plates and any license plate with a wheelchair design, excluding collegiate or generic specialty plates with a wheelchair design, are treated as standard license plates.
(ii) License plates issued on or after January 1, 2010, must be replaced with new license plates if, upon renewal of registration under 61-3-312, the license plates are 5 or more years old or will become older than 5 years during the registration period. New license plates must be issued in accordance with the implementation schedule adopted by the department under 61-3-315.
(iii) A vehicle owner may elect to keep the same license plate number from license plates issued before January 1, 2010, when replacement of those plates is required under this subsection.
(b) A motor vehicle that is registered for a 13-month to a 24-month period, as provided in 61-3-311, may display the license plate and plate design in effect at the time of registration for the entire registration period.
(c) A light vehicle described in subsection (2)(b) or a motor home that is permanently registered may display the license plate and plate design in effect at the time of registration for the entire period that the light vehicle or motor home is permanently registered.
(d) The provisions of this subsection (3) do not apply to a travel trailer, motorcycle, quadricycle, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer.
(e) The requirements of this subsection (3) apply to collegiate license plates authorized under 61-3-461 through 61-3-468, generic specialty license plates authorized under 61-3-472 through 61-3-481, commemorative centennial license plates authorized under 61-3-448, and special military or veteran license plates authorized under 61-3-458.
(4) (a) All license plates must be metal and treated with a reflectorized background material according to specifications prescribed by the department. The word "Montana" must be placed on each license plate and, except for license plates that are 4 inches wide and 7 inches in length, the outline of the state of Montana must be used as a distinctive border on each standard license plate.
(b) Plates for semitrailers, travel trailers, pole trailers, trailers with a declared weight of 6,000 pounds or more, and motor vehicles, other than motorcycles and quadricycles, must be 6 inches wide and 12 inches in length.
(c) Plates for motorcycles and quadricycles must be 4 inches wide and 7 inches in length.
(d) The department shall issue plates that are 4 inches wide and 7 inches in length for trailers with a declared weight of less than 6,000 pounds unless a person registering a trailer with a declared weight of less than 6,000 pounds requests plates that are 6 inches wide and 12 inches in length. A person registering a trailer shall pay all applicable fees for the plates chosen.
(5) The distinctive registration numbers for standard license plates must begin with a number one or with a letter-number combination, such as "A 1" or "AA 1", or any other similar combination of letters and numbers. Except for special license plates, collegiate license plates, generic specialty license plates, fleet license plates, and standard license plates that are 4 inches wide and 7 inches in length, the distinctive registration number or letter-number combination assigned to the motor vehicle must appear on the plate preceded by the number of the county and appearing in horizontal order on the same horizontal baseline. The county number must be separated from the distinctive registration number by a separation mark unless a letter-number combination is used. The dimensions of the numerals and letters must be determined by the department, and all county and registration numbers must be of equal height.
(6) For the use of exempt motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers and motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers that are exempt from the registration fee as provided in 61-3-321, in addition to the markings provided in this section, standard license plates must bear the following distinctive markings:
(a) For motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers owned by the state, the department may designate the prefix number for the various state departments. All numbered plates issued to state departments must bear the words "State Owned", and a year number may not be indicated on the plates because these numbered plates are of a permanent nature and will be replaced by the department only when the physical condition of numbered plates requires it.
(b) For motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers that are owned by the counties, municipalities, and special districts, as defined in 18-8-202, organized under the laws of Montana and not operating for profit, and that are used and operated by officials and employees in the line of duty and for motor vehicles on loan from the United States government or the state of Montana to, or owned by, the civil air patrol and used and operated by officials and employees in the line of duty, there must be placed on the standard license plates assigned, in a position that the department may designate, the letter "X" or the word "EXEMPT". Distinctive registration numbers for plates assigned to motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers of each of the counties in the state and those of the municipalities and special districts that obtain plates within each county must begin with number one and be numbered consecutively. Because these standard license plates are of a permanent nature, they are subject to replacement by the department only when the physical condition of the license plates requires it and a year number may not be displayed on the plates.
(7) For the purpose of this chapter, the several counties of the state are assigned numbers as follows: Silver Bow, 1; Cascade, 2; Yellowstone, 3; Missoula, 4; Lewis and Clark, 5; Gallatin, 6; Flathead, 7; Fergus, 8; Powder River, 9; Carbon, 10; Phillips, 11; Hill, 12; Ravalli, 13; Custer, 14; Lake, 15; Dawson, 16; Roosevelt, 17; Beaverhead, 18; Chouteau, 19; Valley, 20; Toole, 21; Big Horn, 22; Musselshell, 23; Blaine, 24; Madison, 25; Pondera, 26; Richland, 27; Powell, 28; Rosebud, 29; Deer Lodge, 30; Teton, 31; Stillwater, 32; Treasure, 33; Sheridan, 34; Sanders, 35; Judith Basin, 36; Daniels, 37; Glacier, 38; Fallon, 39; Sweet Grass, 40; McCone, 41; Carter, 42; Broadwater, 43; Wheatland, 44; Prairie, 45; Granite, 46; Meagher, 47; Liberty, 48; Park, 49; Garfield, 50; Jefferson, 51; Wibaux, 52; Golden Valley, 53; Mineral, 54; Petroleum, 55; Lincoln, 56. Any new counties must be assigned numbers by the department as they are formed, beginning with the number 57.
(8) Each type of special license plate approved by the legislature, except collegiate license plates authorized in 61-3-463 and generic specialty license plates authorized in 61-3-472 through 61-3-481, must be a separate series of plates, numbered as provided in subsection (5), except that the county number must be replaced by a design that distinguishes each separate plate series. Unless otherwise specifically stated in this section, the special plates are subject to the same rules and laws as govern the issuance of standard license plates, must be placed or mounted on a motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer owned by the person who is eligible to receive them, with the registration decal affixed to the rear license plate of the motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer, and must be removed upon sale or other disposition of the motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer.
(9) (a) A Montana resident who is eligible to receive a special parking permit under 49-4-301 may and a person with a low-speed restricted driver's license operating a low-speed electric vehicle or golf cart as provided in 61-5-122 must, upon written application on a form prescribed by the department, be issued a special license plate with a design or decal bearing a representation of a wheelchair as the symbol of a person with a disability.
(b) If the motor vehicle to which the license plate is attached is permanently registered, the owner of the motor vehicle shall provide, upon request of a person authorized to enforce special parking laws or ordinances in this or any state, evidence of continued eligibility to use the license plate in the form of a valid special parking permit issued to or renewed by the vehicle owner under 49-4-304 and 49-4-305.
(c) A person with a permanent condition, as provided in 49-4-301(2)(b), who has been issued a special license plate upon written application, as provided in this subsection (9), is not required to reapply upon reregistration of the motor vehicle.
(10) The provisions of this section do not apply to a motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer that is registered as part of a fleet, as defined in 61-3-712, and that is subject to the provisions of 61-3-711 through 61-3-733.