Old citation creates new DMV problem for woman

April 19, 2012 1:25:25 AM PDT
Registering your car is usually simple. But the DMV wouldn't give one Marin County woman her new tags and for a whole year, police kept pulling her over.

Elizabeth Sweeney felt downright fearful every time she got behind the wheel, all because of the expired registration tag on her car.

"The tags say 2011 and we're in 2012 so the officers will stop me," Sweeney said.

Sweeney has been driving around for nearly a year with expired tags, never knowing when she'll get pulled over. However, she says it's not her fault. She paid her car registration but the DMV wouldn't give her the new tags.

"I said, 'Is there a problem,' they say, 'Yes you have a citation, it's not paid,' I said, 'Yes, I paid that citation,'" Sweeney said.

It all began two years ago when Sweeney admits she did let her registration lapse. She was cited and paid the fine. However, when she tried to register the car last May, the citation showed up on her DMV record. Elizabeth returned to the courthouse.

"I spoke with a gentleman there and he says, 'No it's paid, Liz, it's fine, just wait a couple of days, it should be in the system,'" Sweeney said.

That didn't happen. So, Sweeney got a copy of her court record and a letter saying she'd paid the fine, and showed the DMV.

"They said, 'No, this doesn't suffice,' I said, 'Yes, this is the exact document you need to get my tags,'" she said.

Sweeney went ahead and paid her registration, but the DMV said no tags. She wound up driving without them.

"I was very tense every time I got behind the wheel," Sweeney said. "I was always, always looking in the rearview, watching."

And every so often, she'd hear the police sirens behind her.

"I'm late for work and I have to pull over and I just...it's not fun," Sweeney said.

Sweeney kept a plastic case in her car with all the court documents and her registration receipt. The cops were sympathetic.

"The last couple of times you know I would just not say anything and take the paperwork out and roll down the passenger window and just show him the paperwork," she said.

She also got hit with a $269 parking ticket for expired tags. And months later her DMV record still had the citation on it.

"I was so frustrated, so I called Channel 7," Sweeney said.

7 On Your Side contacted the DMV and it looked into the case. Within hours, Sweeney got a call to come on down with her paperwork. After a smog test, she was handed the coveted orange sticker.

"I'm so incredibly relieved; 100 percent more relaxed," Sweeney said.

The DMV said, "We are unsure why Ms. Sweeney's issue took so long to be handled. There may have been an issue with communication between the field office and Sacramento headquarters. We apologize to Ms. Sweeney for any inconvenience this may have caused."

If you get a citation and pay it, make sure you get a receipt from the court saying the matter is cleared. If there's ever a problem like Sweeney's, you want to be able to prove your case.


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