Lawmakers Issued License Plates That Make Them 'Invisible' To Traffic Cams And Parking Tickets

from the and-yet,-reps-complain-about-the-public's-cynicism dept

There are rules for the common people and rules for their “leaders,” and only in rare cases do the same rules cover both. Chris Morran at the Consumerist points out how politicians (yet again) are being allowed to ignore the same laws that affect their constituents. Colorado legislators are immune from speeding tickets and parking tickets thanks to the special plates issued to lawmakers — ones that aren’t included in the DMV database.

According to CBS Denver, the info for these particular license plates is never entered into the DMV database, so when some state senator goes zooming by a speed camera, he or she won’t get a ticket, because the camera system looks up the license plate number through the DMV. Since no info comes up, no ticket is given.

This appears to be true for parking tickets as well. See, even though a parking enforcement officer might leave a ticket on the car, cities like Denver that rely on the DMV for addresses of vehicle owners come up empty when they try to collect on those tickets.

On the parking ticket side alone, there are $2,100 worth of unpaid tickets linked to these “invisible” plates. The Dept. of Public Works has decided it’s “too costly” to pursue collection of those fines. Of course, now that this is public knowledge, a politician has “stepped up” to right the wrong.

One state lawmaker recently stated his intention to close this loophole through legislative action in the next session, by simply doing away with the plates altogether.

“[I]t’s absolutely unfair,” said state representative Chris Holbert. “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.”

If only this sort of behavior were an aberration. Earlier this year, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s speeding SUV was pursued by a highway patrol officer who decided (or was instructed) not to pull it over after realizing whose vehicle it was. Like in Colorado, certain public vehicles are issued plates that aren’t listed with the Iowa DMV, which makes these vehicles automatically exempt from traffic cam tickets, parking violations and apparently, even speeding clocked by an on-duty state trooper. It should be noted that the trooper raising the complaint about the governor’s speeding driver (another state trooper) was placed on leave after making this public.

After this small debacle, Governor Branstad too “stepped up” to rein in the injustice, except that his idea of “reining it in” falls far short of Colorado legislator Chris Holbert’s plan. In Branstad’s view, the problem isn’t with the plates, per se. It’s that there are too many of them.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is upset about the number of specialized license plates that have been given to state, local and federal agencies.

More than 3 thousand plates have been issued that exempt the vehicles from getting traffic camera tickets. Brandstad has ordered state transportation officials to cut the number of the special plates.

Over 350 agencies in Iowa have these plates at their disposal (over 3,000 issued so far), a ridiculous amount considering the plates were originally intended for undercover use by various arms of Iowa law enforcement. Branstad probably isn’t looking to give up his ticket-dodging plate but presumably will be forcing several others to play by the same set of rules as the public — that same public these public servants are supposed to be serving.

But that’s nothing compared to the staggering level of abuse (ranking between ‘Chris Brown’ and ‘Foster Home’ on the Abuse Chart) taking place in our nation’s capital. Back in 2008, a report by the US Committee on Transportation detailed the astounding number of violations racked up by government employees and officials.

Municipal, state and federal government agencies are among the biggest offenders when it comes to illegal parking and non-payment of parking citations. A report released last week by the US House Committee on Transportation documented 4000 cases last year where employees in federal vehicles skipped out on paying parking tickets worth $700,000 in Washington, DC and New York City. The total does not include unpaid tickets in foreign countries and other cities throughout the fifty states where 642,000 automobiles registered to the US government are in use.

“Over one-half of all workers in the southernmost section of Manhattan are government employees,” the report explained. “Essentially, all of lower Manhattan is a free parking lot for government vehicles.”

Federal workers were not alone in ignoring parking laws. City workers in Washington and New York also disregarded citations issued by fellow employees. DC government vehicles generated 329 unpaid tickets worth $33,360 while New York city and state vehicles skipped out on paying 2562 tickets worth $490,939.

The worst offender? The FBI, which the report found to be responsible for the largest number of delinquent parking tickets by a single agency. The FBI, properly chastened, examined the cases listed and, because it’s such a shit-hot investigative agency, found itself “unable to come up any suspects who may have been responsible for illegally parking FBI vehicles on 218 occasions.”

To the surprise of roughly no one, those responsible for enacting and enforcing laws are seldom as interested in following them. Apparently, performing the “business of government” is such a total sacrifice that illegal parking, speeding and other traffic violations should be waved off so that our nation’s do-gooders are unimpeded in their good doings.



Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Lawmakers Issued License Plates That Make Them 'Invisible' To Traffic Cams And Parking Tickets”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
51 Comments
Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

Earlier this year, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s speeding SUV was pursued by a highway patrol officer who decided (or was instructed) not to pull it over after realizing whose vehicle it was.

It wouldn’t have been worth his time to write the ticket anyway. Terry Branstad isn’t a crony capitalist so much as the old school political machine, Boss Tweed / Richard Daley sort of political hack.

In 1991 his 16 year old son caused an accident on a rural highway which killed an elderly couple. He was attempting to pass another car while speeding in a van paid for by campaign contributions and, despite protestations to the contrary from the governor’s office, almost certainly drunk.

He was fined a whole $15.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

How about this little tidbit from the CONstitution?
“They (senators and representatives) shall, in all cases, except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective houses, and in going to and returning from the same.”
A sweetheart deal not offered to us peons. But who are we compared to our mighty overlords?

Greg (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think this is kind of nitpicking at this point.

To say that “the police have to wait outside of the building to arrest a congressman until after the session has ended”, is a minor thing compared to saying that “Thousands of government officials all over the country are free to break the law c and not even be cited, nevermind punished for it.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

1) From the sound of it, at least some of these are legislators getting the special plates for their personal cars, rather than government owned ones.
2) Some of these cases are of the state government fining federal vehicles, or local governments fining state governments (probably anyways). So it’s one government fining another, not one government fining itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I thought motor vehicle licensing was a function performed at the state level, not federal level. Please correct me if I am wrong.

The feds have, in the past, coerced states into things, like the 55 mph speed limit for example. President Richard Nixon proposed the legislation in 1973 and it was passed in 1974. Nixon was (R) and Congress at the time was (D) mostly.

Obviously Obama has nothing to do with the states giving politicians carte blanche on the roadways. This partisan bullshit is getting old – and stupid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I read that story also. I doubt the diplomats yell anything, as their staff simply ignores the tickets as the UK government whines.

In addition, (I can’t believe this needs to be said) parking tickets are not the same as aggravated assault.

Hollywood and other media have a bad habit of what might be referred to as misrepresentation of the facts, some claim it is intentional. Incompetence is rampant and apparently getting worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

“when some state senator goes zooming by a speed camera, he or she won?t get a ticket, because the camera system looks up the license plate number through the DMV.”

So the plate does not exist.

State Trooper
Runs Plate
Responds -> No such plate
State Trooper -> Call for back up as chase starts.
State Trooper -> in pursuit of Drug Running Car with illegal plates.
State Troopers (by this time there is a dragnet out) – Detains everybody still alive after shoot out.

Great Idea.

And if you think that will not happen just wait until one of Colorado’s drives their car into one of the border states like Texas or Arizona.

Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

Municipal, state and federal government agencies are among the biggest offenders when it comes to illegal parking and non-payment of parking citations. A report released last week by the US House Committee on Transportation documented 4000 cases last year where employees in federal vehicles skipped out on paying parking tickets worth $700,000 in Washington, DC and New York City. The total does not include unpaid tickets in foreign countries and other cities throughout the fifty states where 642,000 automobiles registered to the US government are in use.

This reminds me of when I worked at a convenience store in my youth. We accepted state charge cards, but not federal cards because it took forever to actually get the money.

Anonymous Coward says:

An annoucement to all criminals

If you want to be untraceable use license plate numbers that don’t exist yet, problem solved. You can even flee from crime scenes at one hundred miles an hour and not get pulled over! Or if that is too much trouble for you just steal a lawmaker’s car. It would serve them right.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Last Time Around, The Same Thing

A lot of you kids probably don’t remember back to Iran/Contragate back in the 1980’s. At any rate, one of the major fixers in that was Colonel Oliver North. He had been given a credit card account tied to a slush fund, so that he could buy stuff for the Contras, and he promptly started using it to cover his own ordinary household bills. When the records were eventually subpoenaed, it emerged that he had run up a bill at the Parklane Pantyhose store at the mall. It turned out that his daughters were taking ballet lessons, and his wife had called him at work with a shopping list, and he had gone to the mall on his way home, and used the credit card he didn’t need to worry about paying the bill for. So… leotards, tights, slippers, etc., all on the government tab. Still, on reflection, government money has been spent in a lot of worse ways… At any rate, it was so very undignified that it did a lot of damage to the President’s credibility.

I think you can assume that there is a lot of that kind of petty corruption going on, through all the secret agencies. It will come out in due course.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It should be noted that the trooper raising the complaint about the governor’s speeding driver (another state trooper) was placed on leave after making this public. “

So the honest cop gets fired and the crooked government official keeps his job. Then you wonder why people think so many cops are corrupt (though I think most cops are honest). What a world we live in.

What’s the excuse for the government keeping this secret? National security? No, the only reason for this being kept secret is because the government knows the public would not approve.

Kinda leads credence to the argument that the real reason the government kept what Snowden and Manning leaked a secret is because those leaks embarrassed the govt and that the real reason they went after them after the leaks had little to do with national security or the public interest and more to do with the fact that they embarrassed the government.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Not Always Illegal Parking

There’s a bit more to this story than was reported. When I worked in DC, our agency was exempt per DC Code from having to pay parking meters as long as it was an official vehicle and the driver was on official business.

This legal exemption, however, didn’t matter to the meter maids, who would write you a ticket anyway. They didn’t care if the ticket would ever be paid or if it was even valid. All they cared about was making their quota and a whole line of government vehicles (legally) parked at expired meters was an easy way to make the day’s numbers early on, which meant they could go sit at Starbucks for the rest of the shift. I actually had one of them tell me all this one day when I happened to come back to my car as she was writing me one of these invalid tickets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It won’t fail, it will merely have a high turnover.
You cannot kill the IDEA of freedom. You can only imprison the man’s body (so far).

When they do finally attempt to enslave our minds as well – via the organic computers and implanted nanotech already on the horizon – people will rebel, en masse, and kill everyone they can find, man woman, child, wealthy, poor – you never would know who was an ally you could trust, and who was a programmed organic machine.

Think fully-organic terminator, or programmed assassin a la MKULTRA. Or, more likely, a permanent Prole class, with implanted or “immunized” nanotech organic computers, designed to regulate body functions. Secreting serotonin when you pay your taxes to Big Brother, for example…

Since nothing will ever be unhackable or fully contained – it will end badly, just like all such previous attempts have.
Doesn’t mean anyone will wake up, mind – but it will mean lots of unrest and civil strife, possibly even a global war…
And that might be the BEST-case scenario, which is what’s most concerning…

Anonymous Coward says:

Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address
Monday, March 4, 1861

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Lincoln Inaugural Address.

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

As said by the man fighting to FORCE the South back into the government they had just used REVOLUTIONARY RIGHT to leave.
Poor choice of quotes, unless you intended to highlight the very fact that the SOB’s in charge haven’t changed one bit – nor will they ever.

We are to be robbed and killed – THEY get to enjoy the spoils of fleecing us.

Why are they still alive? NO ONE has done ANYTHING, we just drone on and on and rattle like a toothless rattlesanke – but no one ever DOES anything.
(And yes, I’ve written to my representatives, and been politely told to f*ck off, they’ll do what they please. It is NOT acceptable, and NOT something we can just endure. We need to “talk” in a language they will understand, the ONLY language they EVER understand: FORCE.)

Dusty says:

Cali. has weird priorities ..millions of no-stop lic. plates

Even a bigger problem and threat to public safety in Cali!! The children of these politicos and street workers, agency workers, et al, are tearing around getting away with traffic violations at will under this flagrant abuse of rights!

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/08/05/equality-in-california-magical-plates-protect-public-employees/

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...