First of all, let me stress that up until May 01, 2010 I have been in complete compliance with the law, although I have had some challenges. You see, back in May of 2009 it was time for me to re-register my vehicle. I was living in Virginia at the time, but didn't want to deal with going to the DMV and all the procedures it would take to change my registration so I just quick renewed online with the State of Utah. They processed my credit card and let me print out a temporary registration until the new permanent one and the license plate sticker would be mailed to me. Not thinking, I didn't update my information and so they still had my address as my grandparent's address in Pleasant Grove, Utah. No big deal, I thought, my grandparents forward me everything and the temporary registration will give me a nice comfortable window. I waited and it never arrived; I asked my grandparents, they never received my registration; I contacted the DMV and they said the address did not exist. Of course it exists! I've visited my loving grandparents since, it's an amazing wonderful home and it's the same address I used for years while at BYU. My temporary registration has it on there accurately.
Oh well, I thought, I know I've complied with the law and if cited I can prove registration if I have to, no big deal. Virginia police won't be happy with my Utah plates anyhow! As a member of one of my old bishoprics, Steve Leetham, used to tell us he never put the new sticker on his plates until he got pulled over. He would just keep his new registration in the car and when asked about it he would pull out the current registration and apologize that he forgot to put the stickers on. He was former police officer, it was a fun game he played. I wasn't concerned about it and when I was pulled over last July 4, the police officer saw my expired registration and said "that's alright, I can tell you own it from this." It was good enough for the officer!
Fast forward to today. I go to the Virginia DMV's website on Saturday and look up the requirements to change my driver's license and registration, I figure I might as well, we might end up staying here after I graduate and insurance is cheaper if I'm registered here. We go to the dealership and get my car's safety inspection done, taking time away from my studies. I fill out the forms ahead of time, make sure I have all the items I need.
Today (Monday), we go to the information desk at the DMV, they ask if I have the proofs I need - proof of address, proof of legal presence, proof of title, and proof of Social Security. I have the proof of address, apparently my debit card being mailed to me doesn't count and we get electronic bank statements so I don't have any of those. The utilities are all in Stephanie's name and we need a letter with MY name on it, not hers. Ah, but they say a pay stub will work for proof of address and I printed out my last pay stub (you see, as with most things I'm paid electronically as well). The information desk looks it over, sees my social security card and says that works as proof of social security (why I need social security to drive, I'm still unsure), the pay stub works, my old registration she thinks will work to prove title even though they need it within the past year and it expired April 30, 2009 (1 year and 3 days ago), but for a driver's license I need my birth certificate for proof of legal residence. I have never needed my birth certificate for anything! I don't have it here, I don't know if I've ever seen it...
Quick aside - proof of legal presence, that means proof that I am legally in the United States. I was born in Utah 27 years ago, I have left the country on one occasion, all the way to Tijuana for about 3 hours. I have a current driver's license, social security card, and am working and going to school in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I am a U.S. Citizen, my family has been here for generations. But proof of legal presence is required for a driver's license in Virginia. And, although it only cost me $18 and a quick Internet search to request my birth certificate, which should be here in 7-10 business days, right now I have no proof of my citizenship that will satisfy the Commonwealth of Virginia. That is why the new Arizona law is so frightening, if they aren't racially profiling, which they claim they aren't, then there is no way to have a truly reasonable suspicion that somebody is here illegally. It is either illegal and racist, or police could have a reasonable suspicion of me being here illegally. I just found out today that it will take me 7-10 business days to have proof of legal presence. I could be in jail for that time. That's not what they're doing, they are racially profiling, at least that's what I believe. But if they aren't - well, I could be in jail for 7-10 days waiting for a birth certificate to show that I'm a citizen. That's why the law is jacked up. I mean, there's a not insignificant segment of our population that does not believe our president is a citizen of the United States - if the President has trouble proving he's a citizen, why do you think you'll have an easier time? Okay, off from my aside.
Oh well, no driver's license - I'm a student and my Utah license is still current, I'm still law abiding if I can just register my car. So, give up on the driver license and seek the registration. The woman at the information desk thinks what we have will suffice. We wait in line, our number is called, we go up - proof of address please? Hand them the letter that my bank sent my bank card in, to this address - sorry, we can't accept that. Hand them a letter from the County Attorney's office, nope - that's not on the list. Okay, well, the woman at the information desk said that my pay stub will work - so here's my pay stub. You just printed that off, I don't know if we can accept that. Well, I'm paid electronically. Let me check. No we can't accept that, (hands me the list of things they can accept, clearly states pay stub, nowhere does it say no printed pay stubs) voter registration card? have it but not at my current address, I was going to update that today, bank statement? electronic, utility bill? still all in my wife's name. We don't have anything with us, go home and search for our taxes - there's my W-2 and tax return, full folder. Yay! In the mean time I order my birth certificate and check, just in case, on how I can get my Utah registration that is freshly expired instead of just over a year expired, $4 sent by letter with a copy of my driver license.
Here is the handwritten letter I am mailing them today:
"Dear Utah DMV,
I registerd my car last year in your great state but never received my registration. I would like to register my vehicle in Virginia now but they want to see my registration with you. It's okay that it's expired. I am enclosing a check for $4.00 (four dollars and 00/100). Please forward me a copy of my registration.
Isaac K. Adams
P.S. Letter writing is a slow process and unduly onerous. I hope some day that telephone and/or Internet requests might satisfy your insatiable bureaucratic needs. It is also wasteful."
Annoying, but maybe the DMV will accept the registration I have, after all it's only 3 days past a year (I know you have to draw the line somewhere but ugh!) and I have the temporary registration that shows that the registration was renewed. Stand in line at the information desk again. You're back? They wouldn't accept my pay stub. They wouldn't accept your pay stub? Nope, she starts getting us the forms again. We still have the form, it's okay, we just need a number. Back in the chair waiting, number finally called. Up to the desk, we bring the tax returns - she barely looks at them, they're legit so it's all good. There's no process of confirming them, just a quick eyeball. But they couldn't accept my 9 other proofs of address... oh well. The process is almost done - where is the car titled? I don't have the title, I'm financing the car (as I assume most people are, majority of Americans don't own, they finance or lease.... but the law is written for owners and barely accounts for those who might finance or lease). I had checked the website and it asked for my title, I knew I couldn't bring it, the bank has it and it's electronic so I brought my registration - the woman at the desk said it should work. I'm sorry, we need something within the last year. So we're 3 days late? Yes, I'm sorry.
So, I ask the woman, hypothetically speaking - if I were to let my registration expire on a financed vehicle for more than a year and decided I wanted to register it again (nothing wrong with that if you're not driving it) what would I need to do? You would need to get the car registered in the state of title and then you could come here with that registration and we could take care of it. But I don't have the title, the bank does. Yes, but the place where you bought the car is where it's titled, even if the bank doesn't exist there. Wow.... so I have to drive my car back to Utah to get it inspected and have it go through emissions testing (the reason I can't renew online this year), pay all those fees, then drive it 2000 back here to comply with the law that wants my car registered. Isn't there another way? Well, you could call the lienholder and tell them you need to register the car in Virginia, have them release the title to you and have title transferred to Virginia then reassess the lien. Hmmm - I tried to refinance my car two months ago and they barely let me see a copy of my title, they said I wasn't even allowed to see it for purposes of refinancing, I don't think they're going to let me do that.
Defeat. I can't comply with the law, not for another few weeks. I need my car, I want to have it registered, but I can't... They won't let me. It's safety inspected. It's a good car. You know the VIN and the ownership and everything, but the registration from last year didn't get sent to me, and the other one has been expired for one year and three days... I was three days late. Now I'm supposed to be studying and writing and working on school and I'm distracted by this. I just want to register my car!
Dear DMV personnel. I know you don't write the laws and you have no control over what you're allowed to accept, I get that. It is a largely thankless job that has been derided much over the year. I'm not upset with you. I'm just frustrated.
Dear House of Commons for the Commonwealth of Virginia. And, to a similar extent Dear Legislature of Utah. Please, realize why you have these laws and recognize that the main purpose is for public safety. Also, please realize we are in the 21st century. So much has gone electronic, we have the option of receiving everything other than our tax documents electronically on your list of proofs of address, Virginia, if we had gotten married one month later I would have no proof of address at my current address. Utah, you tried to take my registration away when I lived there because you didn't think I had insurance - I did have insurance but you didn't think I did and you caused me great stress. Now you failed to send me my registration, I realize it's largely my fault, but you're also charging me four dollars for something I've already paid you for. And you will only accept this four dollars by letter delivered by the USPS. Guess what, there are ways to have secure transactions - I can get my proof of citizenship (birth certificate) over the Internet with a Credit Card, I need my registration ASAP, as do most people who lose their vehicle registration. Get with the times and make something other than check by mail available as a way of requesting my registration, please.
You make me not want to register my vehicle when I have to go through this. I'd rather risk getting pulled over and paying the fine. Ugh. Thanks for listening.