Vanity Plates Rack Up Tickets
Man's "No-Tags" plate is a magnet for citations issued to tag-less vehicles.
There are things Danny White really loves. The Redskins. His red Chevy Avalanche. And a good joke.
"Just having fun!" he says with a laugh.
25 years ago, Danny wanted to have a little fun with his vanity plate, a Washington, D.C. license plate that reads "NO-TAGS."
People, he says, "see my tag. 'Oh! You from D.C.! I like your tag!'"
Well, almost everyone.
"D.C. don't get the joke," he says, shaking his head. "They don't get it."
Because now, the joke is on him.
"I've got enough tickets here to plaster my whole car."
$300, $500, $700 for overdue tickets.
If the city finds an abandoned vehicle or a car missing its plates, guess who gets it?
"It had to be $20,000 in tickets. Over $20,000."
Tickets for Fords, Hondas, Dodges.
Even a Vespa.
Every few months he has to take time off from work to go to the courthouse to get the tickets dismissed.
Since Danny drives a Chevy Avalanche, anything marked a "Chevy" is still his problem.
"How do I prove it's not mine?" Danny asks. "They say, 'I don't know.' You don't know? It's your system, figure it out. 'I don't know' isn't an answer. I got to get this done."
Danny's record at the DMV is now so long, he says he can't renew his license or his registration.
"I said, 'Let me call Channel 4,'" Danny explains. "Get them to help me get this squared away."
For two months, the WRC NEWS4 I-Team swam through an alphabet soup of government bureaucracy. DC's DMV sent us to DPW who sent us to DDOT who sent us back to the DMV, who told us the computers are not set up to red flag problematic tags like Danny's.
"When customers do submit a ticket for adjudication, we don't track what their reason is, so there simply, unfortunately no way for me to know that information," says DMV Director Lucinda Babers.
But Babers says after we called, she sent out a notice to all of the different D.C. agencies who write tickets about a new protocol to help Danny.
She says she's instructed ticket writers, "If there truly is a car that is currently not displaying a license plate, you cannot write 'NO TAGS.' You cannot write 'NONE.'"
Instead, ticket writers must now use the last six digits of the vehicle's identification number, or VIN, and mark the state as "XX."
"It was funny at the time, but now it's gone to the point, hey, I'm losing too much time off of this," Danny says.
But before we let him drive away, we had to ask Danny, Why don't you just change your tags?
"Everybody asks that magic question!" he says. "'Why don't you get rid of them?'" He says he always responds, "'Are you going to buy me new tags?' They say, 'No.' I say, 'There's no need for me to buy tags I already have.' If you pay for it, I'll change them. If not, fix the computer."
Danny may end up getting new tags whether he likes it or not.
Babers says she's thinking about recalling Danny's tags along with other confusing vanity plates to avoid the problem altogether.