March 31 Cutoff Set for Late Car Fees Amnesty

Times Staff Writer

California motorists with expired vehicle registrations have until March 31 to voluntarily pay their fees without penalty under a new Department of Motor Vehicles amnesty program.

Drivers who go to a DMV office before the deadline without having been stopped by police officers will be able to pay their fees and any additional charges, such as parking citations, without penalty, officials said Friday at a Hollywood press conference.

But motorists who have failed to register or who are cited by police during the amnesty period will be forced to pay a fine of up to $250 plus the original fees, as well as an additional penalty. If the registration has been expired for one year or less, the penalty is 20% of the original fees. For registrations delinquent one to two years, the penalty is 40%, and those unpaid for two years or more are subject to an 80% surcharge.

Money-Raising Plan

The primary aim of the program is to boost revenue for local governments, the DMV and the California Highway Patrol, officials said. It is expected to raise almost $40 million, both during and after the amnesty.

As an incentive to local police to enforce the plan, an undetermined percentage of the penalties assessed will be returned by the DMV to local municipalities.

Since the program started Jan. 1, more than 200 applications for voluntary payment have been received at the DMV's Hollywood branch office alone, leading officials to expect a high turnout. In all, more than 300,000 California drivers are expected to take advantage of the amnesty.

Impounding Possible

CHP Assistant Chief Jack Healy said cars with expired registration tags that are cited for parking violations could be impounded until the owners pay their fees and penalties.

Officials said about 6% of the vehicles in the Los Angeles area are unregistered.

This latest government amnesty program was sponsored by Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) and approved by the Legislature. Davis said Friday that he is preparing legislation that might lead to an amnesty period for drivers with unpaid parking citations, who tend to be reluctant to reregister.

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