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Expired Car Registration? In D.C., You Go To Jail


Creative Commons license by dcjohn

Creative Commons license by dcjohn

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When it comes to crime, Washington, D.C. ranked as the 22nd most dangerous city in the United States in 2010. For reference, that makes it more dangerous than cities like Newark, NJ and Atlanta, GA, neither of which are ideal for a late-night stroll.

Washington, D.C., is cracking down on criminals, but probably not the kind that will impact violent crime rates. Instead, Metropolitan Police Department officers are jailing scofflaws with expired automobile registrations.

No, we’re not making this up, and Fox News cites two recent examples of motorists jailed for expired registrations. In the first case, a D.C. resident was jailed overnight for a registration just ten days out of date.

That’s normally a $100 offense, but when his girlfriend arrived at the precinct to pay the fine, the man wasn’t released. Instead, he was transferred to a holding cell in a different building before being released, hours later, without explanation.

His troubles weren’t over yet, since Metro Police towed his car, left it unlocked and parked it in a no parking zone. On the windshield was a $50 ticket for parking illegally.

A similar thing happened to a woman from Maryland, who was en route to pick up a child at school with a second child in her car. The woman, a D.C. food and wine critic and writer, was jailed for six hours before her husband tracked her down and bailed her out.

In some ways, her case was more understandable, since her registration was three months out of date. That practically puts her on par with Charles Manson, or at least Ted Kaczynski.

Those of us with ties to law enforcement understand that there are three sides to every story (yours, mine, and what really happened), but we’re having a hard time understanding the impetus to jail someone for what amounts to a minor offense. If you’re visiting our nation’s capital in the near future, consider this a friendly warning: make sure your registration is current before you hit the city limit.
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