California is on the brink of enacting an automotive Catch-22 that will cause more people to be pulled over by police and ticketed. For what? The crime of having expired temporary license tags on their cars. Even if they haven’t received their permanent license plates, through no fault of their own.
California allows car buyers only 90 days to put on their permanent plates. With NO exceptions. So — what happens when car dealers fail to submit the registration forms and go out of business, leaving dozens of consumers in the lurch? Or when the Department of Motor Vehicles messes up? Or when the plates are sent to the wrong address, or stolen? YOU are out of luck.
In fact, the law says you have to put the plates on as soon as you get them, or within 90 days, whichever comes first. But what if you don’t get them within 90 days? Tough. Try calling the DMV and the dealer. Good luck with that. And here’s the kicker: There is NO law that requires car dealers to ensure that the plates are sent to you within the 90 days. Gotcha. Catch-22.
If the dealer fails to submit the registration, YOU are subject to being pulled over and ticketed. If you get enough tickets, your car can be impounded.
What if you get desperate and alter the expiration date on the temporary tag, so you can get to work without being pulled over, while you try to get your permanent plates? The bill would make altering a temporary tag a new FELONY offense, punishable by hefty fines and imprisonment of 2-3 years.
One hapless consumer bought a car from a major franchised new car dealership in Southern California. The dealer failed to submit the registration forms. As a result, the car buyer got so many tickets, his car was impounded. He paid off all the tickets. But he was still unable to get his car back because the dealer still failed to submit the proper documentation so it would be registered. Until it was registered, he couldn’t get it back. He eventually sued the dealer and according to his attorney, he won. But should you have to file a lawsuit just to get back your own car?
The bill number is AB 516, and the author is Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-Burlingame). The bill is backed by — surprise!! — car dealers. Plus toll authorities, who stand to increase toll collections by millions of dollars.
Mullin’s bill is opposed by civil rights and consumer groups, including the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area writes: “LLCR recently published, in collaboration with other groups, a report entitled Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California, which shows the many ways that low-income California drivers, and particularly communities of color, are impacted by unfair laws that result in license suspensions, and hefty fines, and that lead people into an endless cycle of debt and court involvement from which they cannot extricate themselves. Rather than reverse this trend, AB 516 would contribute to it.”
Adding insult to injury: the bill would raise the amount car dealers are allowed to charge car buyers as a “document fee” from $80 to $90. If the bill passes, car buyers will pay car dealers more, supposedly to handle the registration and spare them the hassle of dealing with the DMV. But guess what. The dealer still doesn’t have to get you the permanent plates in time for you to avoid being pulled over and ticketed. AHA. Catch-22.