2004-06-18 / Front Page

CHP cracks down on license plate abuse

By Michael Picarella
Pic@theacorn.com

By Michael Picarella Pic@theacorn.com

California reports that it is losing millions of dollars in revenue every year because many residents register their vehicles in other states to avoid paying the higher fees here.

Earlier this spring, the California Highway Patrol launched CHEATERS (Californians Help Eliminate All The Evasive Registration Scofflaws), a new program that asks citizens to report out-of-state license plates on vehicles that are clearly from California. The program has proven to be successful, officials said.

"We’re not able to keep up with the e-mails because there’s so many of them," said CHP officer David Costantini who started the CHEATERS program. "And these are good e-mails where people are giving addresses. The people tell us, ‘My neighbor has been here for two years and they’ve had Oregon plates ever since I’ve known them, and I think they should pay their fair share.’ Then they give us the information we need, we run the plate and then we send a letter (to the noncompliant motorists)."

Violators who are notified must register their vehicle in the state of California within 10 days of receiving the letter. Then they must contact the CHP to confirm that they’ve complied, Costantini said.

"In one month, we’ve brought in over $100,000," Costantini said.

Vehicle registration fees go into the state’s general fund, according to CHP officials.

"The CHP isn’t getting more money by doing this," Costantini said. This program will help California’s budget crisis, he said.

According to the CHP, there are three common reasons for failing to register vehicles in the Golden State.

1. Motorists are unaware of California registration laws.

2. Motorists are evading payments of registration fees and taxes.

3. Motorists are unable to comply with the state’s tougher air pollution laws.

Since CHEATERS started, more than 20,000 residents e-mailed the CHP to report improperly registered vehicles, according to Costantini, and the state wants more residents to comply.

For more information about CHEATERS or to report out-of-state license plates on California vehicles, go to www.chp.ca.gov/html/cheaters.html.

You can also report noncom-pliant motorists to the Department of Motor Vehicles by writing to the Department of Motor Vehicles Registration Compliance, P.O. Box 825341, Sacramento, CA 94232-5341.

Those who report noncompliant motorists should include the following information:

1. The state or province in which the noncompliant vehicle is registered

2. The vehicle license number

3. The time and date the vehicle was observed

4. The make, model and color of the vehicle

5. The location where the vehicle was observed (street and city)

6. Any additional comments and descriptive information

The CHP reminds California motorists that vehicle registration fees are due immediately upon accepting employment or establishing residency in the state of California. Authorities can and will levy penalties on those motorists who don’t complete the process within 20 days of residency.

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