…though it hardly deserves to be called “a fight.”
On Wednesday, the fourteenth of this month, I parked on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. I parked there for just over an hour. As I approached my car after the hour, I saw papers affixed to my windshield wiper. Uh oh.
Immediately I began thinking of what I had done wrong. Was my car too far from the curb? No…I mean, it was about a foot from the curb but it stuck out less than other, wider vehicles. Had I parked in a handicapped or fire hydrant zone? No…I didn’t see any yellow curb or hydrants around. Was I parked in a No Parking zone? No…there were cars in front of and behind mine, and the sign said there was a two-hour limit.
By this point, I was at my car. I pulled the paper and envelope from the wiper and perused it. Turns out, I was indicted for violating statute 168.09.4: Expired Registration.
I looked at my plates. Yep…they were due in July.
How did I forget?
I hadn’t entirely forgotten. A few times in the past month, I contemplated when my tabs were due for renewal. I knew it was sometime in late summer, but I had this vague idea they were due in August or September. Silly me. I was thinking August, because August first is essentially the deadline. As for September…well, that’s my other car.
Jennifer was perflexed as to why we never received notice in the mail. I claimed the motor vehicle bureau no longer sends out notices since I hadn’t seen them last year, either. Jennifer said that’s ridiculous, how else are we supposed to remember when to renew our tabs? I argued that it kind of makes sense, since mailing out reminders is undoubtedly costly and, anyway, car owners should keep track of it themselves.
But then I did some research.
Turns out, my wife was correct: reminders are still mailed.
Then where was ours?
I immediately went online and purchased new tabs. Then I emailed the motor vehicle bureau and asked why we weren’t send renewal notices. An employee responded that they do not have our current address. I wrote back confused: My driver’s license, which I renewed shortly after moving (nearly two years ago) shows my current address, so when I went to renew my license, didn’t that update my address? Nope.
So take a lesson: Just because your driver’s license displays your current address does not mean that the motor vehicle bureau has that address on file as the one to send tab renewal notices to. I know, it seems odd to me, too.
As you can see, I kind of had an excuse here. Granted, my tabs were expired…but just barely. And, besides, I never received a reminder, even though I thought the bureau had my current address.
So I determined to call and request a hearing at the violations bureau. Yes, that was my grand idea: I would head downtown and fight City Hall! I would state my case and, in view of my extenuating circumstance, I would aruge for leniency in reducing, if not entirely dismissing, my $111 fine.
The man on the phone requested my citation number. After reading it to him, he said: “Oh, this is just for expired tabs?
Him: “Is this the only citation you’ve received for expired tabs?”
Me: “It’s the only citation I’ve ever received for expired tabs.”
Him: ”Do you have the new tabs on your vehicle now?”
Him: “Okay, well you don’t need to request a hearing then.”
Me: “Oh, I don’t?”
Him: “No, just take pictures of your license plates showing the current tabs and send the pictures to me, along with your citation number.”
He then gave me his address and office number. He told me he was wiping the charge off my case, and that I would not have to pay the fine as long as the photos arrived in his office by September 15th. I, of course, got right on this and, even as we speak, the photos are on their way through the postal system. My next step is to call in five business days (so…just after Labor Day) and check that he has received the photos.
So, another lesson learned: If you get a citation for expired plates, renew the tabs immediately, call the violations bureau, and see about getting your fine waived.
I have to admit to being slightly disappointed. I was kind of looking forward to going down to City Hall and taking part in a hearing if, for no other reason, than to see how the system works. I figured worst-case scenario would be that I’d be no worse off than I was now, and $111 isn’t exactly the end of the world.
Still…I’ll take it!