Washington, D.C., Jails Motorists With Expired License Plates


Washington, D.C., may be the only place in the nation where police are authorized to arrest drivers if their license plates are more than 30 days out of date, says the Washington Post. Last summer, a naval officer who dashed out with expired license plates to pick up dinner for his wife and 6-month-old daughter returned home more than three hours later with an arrest record instead. In between, he was photographed in handcuffs by loitering kids, locked in a cell, fingerprinted and required to pose for a mug shot.

The American Automobile Association, a critic of the policy, cites the case of a mother who was arrested while she was on her way to pick up a child from school. She was allegedly told that until her release, another child riding in the car would be sent to a social services agency. The automobile association challenges the police's authority to jail people for the offense, pointing to a city code that says people who drive with expired tags can be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to 30 days “upon being convicted of the offense.” U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va) complained to Mayor Vincent Gray that “there is absolutely no justification for jailing citizens whose only offense is an expired tag.” The mayor said the policy to allow such arrests dated from a high-crime period when it was used against drug dealers.

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