- The California Highway Patrol is out to catch cheaters.
The CHP is asking people to report those who drive around with out-of-state license plates. The Program is called Californians Help Eliminate All The Evasive Registration Scofflaws — or CHEATERS.
The state is losing money because of drivers who keep their cars registered in other states, typically states with lower registration fees, said CHP Commander Fran Clader.
Here's the law: a vehicle owner has 20 days to register their vehicle in California after accepting employment in the state or establishing residency.
Last year there were fees collected on 3,383 out-of-state license plate violations, which resulted in the collection of more than $1 million in fees, or an average of $297.58 per case, according to the CHP. Since the start of the program in 2004, $4 million has been collected in fees.
The California vehicle licensing fee ranges high or low depending on the make and age of the vehicle. The fee has increased from 0.65 percent of a vehicle's value to 1.15 percent as of this May, said California DMV Information Officer Jan Mendoza. For a vehicle worth $25,000 that is four or five years old, a California resident may pay up to $280 for licensing registration, she said.
For a $20,000 vehicle that is four or five years old, Nevada residents can pay around $250, said Nevada DMV Information Officer Kevin Malone.
Residents are able to report out-of-state license plates at the CHP's Web site, www.chp.ca.gov. The state and license plate number must be included, as well as the make, model and color of the vehicle, and the date, time and location where the vehicle was observed.
The CHP puts the information into a database. If there is enough information to prove that the owner or driver of the vehicle is a California resident, a letter is mailed to the vehicle owner, advising them they are required to pay California vehicle licensing fees. If the vehicle owner continues to avoid in-state registration, the vehicle information is forwarded to CHP offices of the appropriate region for further investigation. Ultimately the owner can be cited for violations and also be forced to pay registration fees and penalties.
Currently, there are no exact estimates as to how many out-of-state car registrations are residents.
"That is the reason why we have created this program," Clader said. "We need people to get involved and help us report those vehicles."
CHP officials are beginning to enforce this on residents because the fees collected from vehicle registrations help fund public services.
"These violators are in California using out services, but not paying their fair share of the costs," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. "It's time for vehicle registration cheaters to end their free ride, and pay their fair share."