Lawmakers Avoid Traffic Penalties With Special License Plates

By:  Brian Koenig
08/09/2013
       
Lawmakers Avoid Traffic Penalties With Special License Plates

Thanks to loopholes in Colorado and California laws, lawmakers are avoiding thousands of dollars in parking fines and traffic violation tickets.

Thanks to loopholes in Colorado and California laws, local officials and their families are avoiding thousands of dollars in parking fines and traffic violation tickets, according to investigations by a Denver-based CBS affiliate and others. Intended to protect police officers and other public employees from criminals, the Colorado law gives 100 lawmakers and representatives a way to avoid radar tickets for speeding, as well as dodge collection notices on past-due parking tickets.

The loophole emanates from a provision that prevents legislative plates from being entered into the Division of Motor Vehicles database; therefore, if someone sporting one of the special license plates is caught blazing through a red-light camera, there are no state records to cross-reference the plate to the driver’s home address.

An added benefit for those awarded the special plates is their ability to evade parking penalties. “Because the Department of Public Works relies on the DMV database to contact people with unpaid parking tickets we are not able to contact legislators with unpaid parking tickets,” asserted Denver Public Works spokeswoman Emily Williams.

Williams acknowledged that lawmakers can avoid parking tickets without consequences. “That’s true,” she stated, “And it’s the glitch in the system.”

The CBS investigation identified 16 legislative plates that have racked up more than $2,000 in fines and penalties that have not yet been paid. Williams says the glitch has been recognized, but the cost to track down the lawmakers is too great and perhaps too difficult to administer.

One state lawmaker has affirmed his intention to seal up the loophole in the next session, by simply abolishing the special plates altogether. “It’s absolutely unfair,” state representative Chris Holbert contended, adding that the plates amount to little more than decorations. “We should be held accountable like any other citizen. We are elected to represent the people and there’s no reason for us to be treated differently.”

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