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Problems With Expired Registrations

In reference to Clayton Trawick’s letter, “Car License Plates That Are Out of Date” (April 9), I can certainly sympathize with his frustration regarding the “scofflaws.” He is in error, though, when he says that the police are not enforcing the laws dealing with registration violations. In fact, the driver ahead of Trawick, with the expired tags, may have already been stopped and cited half a dozen times.

Having 18 years in law enforcement with one of the larger departments in Los Angeles County, I can say with every confidence that the same frustration afflicts peace officers. Let me give you a brief scenario of how one such violator might be dealt with, and how the legal system subverts the best efforts of law enforcement officers everywhere: Cruising down the street I happen upon Mr. Scofflaw driving merrily along with expired registration tags on his vehicle. I write him a citation and off he goes with a future court date designated on his promise to appear.

If he is your average scofflaw, the citation will be ignored. The court date will come and go and he will continue to drive with the expired tags. Moreover, the next time he is stopped, his signed copy of the citation (which he happily displays to the current officer) is his “ticket to ride” until the appearance date on the citation is passed. He is released on the spot because theoretically, the violation has already been brought to the attention of the court system.

Time passes, the violator ignores the notices from the court, and eventually a warrant is issued for his arrest. Sooner or later the violator is stopped again for those expired tags (which stand out to the cops just as much as to Trawick) and more than likely another citation will be issued for the same offense. It is neither efficacious nor desirable to run warrant checks on every person stopped for a minor violation so naturally, this officer knows nothing about the previous ticket or the warrant. Mr. Scofflaw skates away again. Typically, this will go on until the violator gets checked for warrants.

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The sad truth, though, is that in this day of overcrowded jails, convicted offenders are being released after doing less and less of their sentences. The courts have ordered that the jails must stay below a certain number of inmates. Unless someone brought in has an exceptionally high bail or a charge involving violence, he will be in and out within a matter of hours. Therefore, even if Mr. Scofflaw is arrested and hauled down to the station, chances are he will be released on (you guessed it) his promise to appear in court.

STEPHEN C. LEE

La Habra


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