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  #1  
Old 05-01-2007, 06:07 PM
diggleblop diggleblop is offline
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Can a cop just run your tags while being behind you?

The question is a little longer, so here goes: If you are driving down the road, doing nothing wrong, following the speed limit, buckled up etc...

In the State of Maryland can a police officer who is driving behind you just run your tags for no reason and if they are dead, pull you over?
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  #2  
Old 05-01-2007, 06:09 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Well, in the State of New York, I was having car troubles and pulled over to work on it. A cop stopped and walked up to me -- and called me by my name. It's clear he was able to get the registration information from my license plate.

So, on a technical basis, it's quite possible. On a legal basis, I'd assume the cops would be allowed to do it.
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Old 05-01-2007, 06:14 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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If Maryland is anything like here they sure as shootin' can, and they do it regularly. I see defendants all the time who get pulled over after a suspicionless random check of their tags comes back showing they have a warrant out. A friend in college was in the drive-through line at Jack in the Box, and had a cop waiting behind him run his tags just out of boredom. He had warrants and went to jail. Don't remember if he let him finish his food first.
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Old 05-01-2007, 06:15 PM
charizard charizard is offline
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I saw a little clip on the news recently... they have a new automated camera system, whereby a police cruiser can just drive up and down a parking lot (for instance), and the camera will automatically scan all the license plates and run them through the computer.

I guess that means that they can.
  #5  
Old 05-01-2007, 06:18 PM
Duggy Fizzle Duggy Fizzle is offline
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I do it everyday. However, I live in Ohio, but I'm sure Maryland isn't too different. You'd be amazed how many suspended/expired drivers there are. There are also many warrants, stolen autos, stolen plates, etc.



Quote:
Originally Posted by diggleblop
and if they are dead, pull you over?
What exactly do you mean by "dead"? Police still need to have Probable Cause in order to pull you over. If you are going the speed limit, are valid etc, then you could not be legally pulled over
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Old 05-01-2007, 06:20 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Would driving on expired ("dead") tags not qualify as probable cause?
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Old 05-01-2007, 06:49 PM
A.R. Cane A.R. Cane is offline
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If the officer has run a check and determined there's a warrant for the registered owner, and believes there may be a problem w/ probable cause in making the traffic stop, I'm guessing they would just follow the subject until they commited some minor violation, thus providing the probable cause. A sharp defense atty. might be able to see through this, but how many cases are going to get that far?
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Old 05-01-2007, 06:50 PM
Washoe Washoe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duggy Fizzle
I do it everyday.
But is that legal? My sister worked for three years as a commissioned Ranger for the US National Park Service. She told me than running a plate constitutes conducting an investigation, and that you need probable cause for that. I have the feeling that Iím missing something here, but I canít figure out what it is.
  #9  
Old 05-01-2007, 07:53 PM
Duggy Fizzle Duggy Fizzle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A.R. Cane
If the officer has run a check and determined there's a warrant for the registered owner, and believes there may be a problem w/ probable cause in making the traffic stop, I'm guessing they would just follow the subject until they commited some minor violation, thus providing the probable cause. A sharp defense atty. might be able to see through this, but how many cases are going to get that far?
If the registered owner has warrants and the person behind the wheel appears to match the physical description of the owner (which is listed in the registration when it pops up on our computer), then that is your probable cause for the traffic stop. Now, if you find out after you make the traffic stop that the driver is actually the owner's brother (who happens to match the description), you must immediately cut him loose. The courts have ruled that in such situation this doesn't violate the person's fourth amendment rights so long as it was done in good faith. This concept is drilled into our heads at every legal update class we attend.
  #10  
Old 05-01-2007, 08:11 PM
Sapo Sapo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charizard
I saw a little clip on the news recently... they have a new automated camera system, whereby a police cruiser can just drive up and down a parking lot (for instance), and the camera will automatically scan all the license plates and run them through the computer.

I guess that means that they can.
Wired ran a good article on it a couple months ago. I understand that before that, they just manually punched in random plates even from parked cars.
  #11  
Old 05-01-2007, 08:11 PM
Duggy Fizzle Duggy Fizzle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Washoe
But is that legal?
Yes, it is legal. But remember I work in Ohio and the National Park system may have their own in-house rules.

We use a computer network called LEADS to run plates and such. The LEADS administrators are very strict about how their system is used. So long as what we are doing is for law enforcement purposes, then we can run a plate for no other reason than it is in front of us.

Now, if I started using LEADS to find out where the pretty girl in the blue Honda lived, I could lose my job. Not because it was illegal, but because it violated their rules. The way it was explained to me is that if a person violates LEADS rules, then LEADS will demand that person be terminated, or else the entire law enforcement agency for whom that employee works can have the LEADS terminals removed. Essentially removing any capability to run plates.

In Mentor, Ohio about 4-5 weeks ago this happened (sorry, no link). A twenty year employee in the (I believe) records department lost her job because she looked up a plate of a woman who was dating her ex-husband and she caused some trouble. In all, two people were fired and a third suspended for violating LEADS rules. (I have no personal knowledge of this specific incident, this is what I read in the newspaper.)

The information listed in the vehicle registration is public information. Any Joe on the street can find out who owns what car, albeit much more slowly than the police. All you have to do is fill out a specific BMV form and mail it in, and in a few days they will send you the owner's information.
  #12  
Old 05-01-2007, 08:13 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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They will pull you over if your plates are expired in NY. I know because it happened to me.
  #13  
Old 05-01-2007, 08:18 PM
2gigch1 2gigch1 is offline
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As an avid scanner listener in the Baltimore / Washington Metro region you get real used to hearing calls for "Rollin' Stolen" where an officer calls out a tag for a quick check. Years ago when I listened to RATT (Regional Auto Theft Taskforce) in Baltimore officers sang out tags every few seconds, hour after hour, looking for stolen cars. Hideously efficient.

Nowadays most cars just run the tags on their onboard terminals.

Last edited by 2gigch1; 05-01-2007 at 08:19 PM.. Reason: spelling
  #14  
Old 05-01-2007, 08:21 PM
Tristan Tristan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duggy Fizzle
What exactly do you mean by "dead"? Police still need to have Probable Cause in order to pull you over. If you are going the speed limit, are valid etc, then you could not be legally pulled over
The several times I have been pulled over (as a passenger) in friends cars, it has always always been "we smelled marijuana from this car".

They then proceed to search the car, and us. We of course give permission for this, as we're as clean as a whistle, but still....
  #15  
Old 05-01-2007, 08:55 PM
John DiFool John DiFool is offline
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Interesting and for me timely question, because precisely that appeared to happen to me yesterday. I had pulled through a left turn arrow which I had thought had just turned yellow. A guy in the straight ahead lane opposite me did a false start as I went through, which I chalked up to an impatient driver rarin' to go. I pulled into the parking lot 100 yards down the road where I work, and as I was walking in a cop pulled on by in his cruiser.

Weird thing is he went around a corner and stopped dead with a perfect view of my license plate (I'm inside my workplace now looking out), and at that point I thought he was going to ring me up for running the light. I fully expected to see a ticket on my windshield when I came back out, but nothing. I really hope he doesn't have the legal right to mail me a ticket for something like that; otherwise he just thought I was a punk kid, ran my plates, saw my squeaky-clean record, and decided the hell with it. I hope.
  #16  
Old 05-01-2007, 09:16 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
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In MA the police can and do randomly run plates.
  #17  
Old 05-01-2007, 09:27 PM
silenus silenus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tristan
We of course give permission for this, as we're as clean as a whistle, but still....
My advice to my students is to never, ever, ever do this. If they have probable cause that will stand up in court, then they can search you and the car anyway. If they don't, fuck'em. The default position of any citizen should be to make the police prove everything, every step of the way. Don't co-operate one iota more than the law demands.
  #18  
Old 05-01-2007, 10:14 PM
Operation Ripper Operation Ripper is offline
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Why in the world shouldn't they be able to? That's what tags are for.
  #19  
Old 05-01-2007, 10:31 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Explain to me why the police should not be allowed legally to run a check on tags in plain view?
  #20  
Old 05-01-2007, 10:44 PM
SmackFu SmackFu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
They will pull you over if your plates are expired in NY. I know because it happened to me.
In CT too. They should have ran it in the computer first, because I did have a valid registration. Just hadn't bolted on the new plates yet, since the state changed the design.
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Old 05-01-2007, 10:56 PM
A.R. Cane A.R. Cane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duggy Fizzle
If the registered owner has warrants and the person behind the wheel appears to match the physical description of the owner (which is listed in the registration when it pops up on our computer), then that is your probable cause for the traffic stop. Now, if you find out after you make the traffic stop that the driver is actually the owner's brother (who happens to match the description), you must immediately cut him loose. The courts have ruled that in such situation this doesn't violate the person's fourth amendment rights so long as it was done in good faith. This concept is drilled into our heads at every legal update class we attend.
The point I was thinking of was whether the tag check constituted probable cause by itself. Any description you get is likely to limited. Height, weight, eye and hair color and DOB. It could be very difficult to match those characteristics when following a vehicle from behind, especially if there were other factors: bad weather, night, dark windows, drivers apparel, etc.
Now I'm sure that, if the tags turned up stolen, expired, BOLO, then that would be probable cause, but if it just says the owner of that reg. has an outstanding warrant, is the check enough for the traffic stop w/o any other evidence?
I'm also not questioning the legality of running random registration checks.
  #22  
Old 05-01-2007, 11:25 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Add Wisconsin to the list. A friend of mine got pulled over becuase his tags didn't match his car. My friend explained that he had just bought the car that day and moved the plates over to the new car and that was the end of it.
Oh, and he didn't have any paperwork on the new car, even if we had just stolen the car and put his plates on it, we still would have gotten away.

Last edited by Joey P; 05-01-2007 at 11:26 PM..
  #23  
Old 05-01-2007, 11:36 PM
gonzomax gonzomax is offline
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I got pulled over several years ago for a bad plate. Turns out my wife bounced a check to the state for the plates. She never told me. I got handcuffed and thrown in jail. After she showed proof that the check was made good I got 40 hours on community service. I had to work weekends for the police dept cleaning parks, painting bleachers etc. I was real pissed at my wife. She got off free and she did it.
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:06 AM
commasense commasense is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diggleblop
In the State of Maryland can a police officer who is driving behind you just run your tags for no reason and if they are dead, pull you over?
Like others here, I don't understand what you mean by "dead." If you mean expired, he doesn't have to use anything except his eyes, because all Maryland tags have month and year expiration stickers in the upper corners. They are color coded, so cops can tell pretty easily if tags are expired. No computer or radio call needed.

Maryland cops would only have to run a tag if they wanted to find out if the car was stolen or if they were interested in the driver.

I was pulled over once because when I had gotten new tags I mistakenly put the front tag (which doesn't have the stickers) on the back. I just showed him the rear tag with the stickers (which I hadn't put on the front) and he let me go, saying "Put it on when you get home."
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:38 AM
Cerowyn Cerowyn is offline
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Originally Posted by gonzomax
After she showed proof that the check was made good I got 40 hours on community service. I had to work weekends for the police dept cleaning parks, painting bleachers etc. I was real pissed at my wife. She got off free and she did it.
I trust she did her service in another manner?
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:46 AM
Saint Cad Saint Cad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey P
Add Wisconsin to the list.
And California. A lovely afternoon I had in traffic court.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:24 AM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Originally Posted by SaintCad
And California. A lovely afternoon I had in traffic court.
Right. Legal in CA.
  #28  
Old 05-02-2007, 03:30 AM
WonJohnSoup WonJohnSoup is offline
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I've done ridealongs with officers in California, and it was actually kind of scary riding the first time because it was just amazing how they were able to drive so fast with one hand on the wheel and the other hand doing all sorts of things, including typing in the plates on some car that just zipped by on the other side of the street. And the ones I rode with were just machines at it. 2 seconds or less was more than enough time for them to see and type in the 7 digit plates. Some of the ones I rode in would run what I would say maybe 80-90% of the plates of the cars around us that were going in the same direction? I was a teen at the time and didn't really know what I saw on the screen, but I was surprised to see the word "warrant" pop up on so many vehicles and yet the officer didn't pull them over. But like I said, I didn't really know what I was seeing. And yeah, towards the wee morning hours they would often roll through a motel parking lot and just run through all the plates real quick. Looking for people on the lam, I guess.
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:25 AM
diggleblop diggleblop is offline
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dead=expired
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Old 05-02-2007, 08:34 AM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diggleblop
dead=expired
In most states, expired plates can be identified by visual inspection, no need for a computer check.
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Old 05-02-2007, 09:10 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Re: expired plates in Michigan, they expire on the day after your birthday, not at the end of the month (well, unless that coincides with your birthday). So strictly speaking they really have to run your plates to see if your registration has expired.
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Old 05-02-2007, 09:17 AM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerowyn
I trust she did her service in another manner?
. . .and I trust handcuffs were also involved.
  #33  
Old 05-02-2007, 09:20 AM
Jurph Jurph is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charizard
I saw a little clip on the news recently... they have a new automated camera system, whereby a police cruiser can just drive up and down a parking lot (for instance), and the camera will automatically scan all the license plates and run them through the computer.

I guess that means that they can.
This system is definitely in use in Montgomery County, Maryland. I've seen the driver of the vehicle, who did not appear to be a police officer, parked to issue a ticket. I'm assuming that if the system finds a stolen car or other serious offense they can call a "real" officer to handle the problem.
  #34  
Old 05-02-2007, 09:43 AM
August West August West is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tristan
They then proceed to search the car, and us. We of course give permission for this, as we're as clean as a whistle, but still....
I have to agree with silenus here. If you are innocent why would voluntarily surrender your Constitutional right to be secure from unreasonable searches?

Police have asked to search my vehicle twice in my life. Both times I refused and both times they let me drive away with no hassle.
  #35  
Old 05-02-2007, 09:51 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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I see nothing wrong with them doing so.

Is the word "tags" a regional thing? In Michigan, nobody but nobody calls them that. We call them "plates" which really is more correct in my view.
  #36  
Old 05-02-2007, 09:54 AM
lee lee is offline
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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
Explain to me why the police should not be allowed legally to run a check on tags in plain view?
They had been doing this for cars of minorities only and using it to harass them in ways they just did not do to whites. As I understand it now in Illinois, they have to have some reason, such as an expired tag etc. before running the plate.
  #37  
Old 05-02-2007, 09:57 AM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
They will pull you over if your plates are expired in NY. I know because it happened to me.
Ditto in Louisiana Except here, it's even easier for the police to check on this -- a handy-dandy sticker on our license plates gives the expiration date of an automobile's registration.
  #38  
Old 05-02-2007, 10:00 AM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobLibDem
I see nothing wrong with them doing so.

Is the word "tags" a regional thing? In Michigan, nobody but nobody calls them that. We call them "plates" which really is more correct in my view.
I've heard plenty of people call them tags here in MI. I tend to refer to the stupid renewal stickers as tags, and the metal thing to which they get affixed as plates.

Responding to the OP, sure they can. There's nothing unconstitutional about running your info, that's kinda why it's on the back of your car. It's in plain sight, if it wasn't there, you'd get busted for that, and if it is there, it could be bogus, or the vehicle could be stolen. The plate is in plain view, so there's no Fourth Amendment violation. Some states might have laws preventing it, but I doubt it.
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:02 AM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commasense
Like others here, I don't understand what you mean by "dead." If you mean expired, he doesn't have to use anything except his eyes, because all Maryland tags have month and year expiration stickers in the upper corners. They are color coded, so cops can tell pretty easily if tags are expired. No computer or radio call needed.
This is also true in Louisiana (except the stickers are on the lower corners) ... but I now wonder if not all states have such stickers on license plates?

We don't have front and rear plates, either, FWIW. Just rear.
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:09 AM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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1. I got stopped for expired plates in Vegas when I lived there. I was stunned because I'd just bought the car and put the plates on. Unfortunately, I'd put them on in reverse (front plate on the back; back on the front).

2. I recently heard an oral argument before the 7th Circuit about a guy who'd been pulled over because his paper temporary tag was "frayed." The argument wasn't that the cops couldn't stop him because of the tag, but that the cops should have let him go once they got an up-close look at the tags, which were in order.
  #41  
Old 05-02-2007, 10:11 AM
Wee Bairn Wee Bairn is offline
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OK, what about states with a sticker on the license to indicate if it is expired- doesn't this violate "probable cause" if they run a plate they can visually see is not expired, and they have no other real reason for suspicion?

The only reason I would consent to letting a cop search my car for pot is a), if I didn't have any and b) I was on the highway and the cop said I would have to wait an hour for the drug dog to arrive from the next county.
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:25 AM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wee Bairn
"probable cause" if they run a plate they can visually see is not expired, and they have no other real reason for suspicion?
Probable cause is required for searches and seizures. It's pretty clearly not a seizure to run your plates, and I'm equally sure that the state doesn't need probable cause to "search" its own computer records. Besides, running the plates will tell them whether the vehicle has been reported stolen, and probably some other good stuff (like, I think, if the owner has a restricted driver's license, or, more definitely, if the sticker doesn't belong to the plate).
  #43  
Old 05-02-2007, 10:32 AM
butler1850 butler1850 is offline
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One thing to remember is that there is legal, and there is "what's done."

They may not be able to act on "what's done," but it's 'done' all the time.

I've been run through the system at least twice for non-suspicious, non-driving related issues. Once when my father got a job as a dispatcher for a local PD in MA, he was "playing with the system" and needed someone to run. The other was by my wife's uncle when we started dating, run through a NH local PD's system. (Too see if I had any shady things in my past... the last guy did...) I came up clean on both. (would have been embarrasing if Dad had found anything). Neither of these were by tag, but by name/birthdate, but the concepts are the same.

In MA, I have a friend, who was driving with a suspended license (bad to do), and was run because he had a "unique plate," and the cop was bored... he got what he deserved in this case.
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:34 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gfactor
I've heard plenty of people call them tags here in MI. I tend to refer to the stupid renewal stickers as tags, and the metal thing to which they get affixed as plates.
Oh, all right. SOME may call them tags. But the people I run across always call them plates.
  #45  
Old 05-02-2007, 10:42 AM
zamboniracer zamboniracer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duggy Fizzle

The information listed in the vehicle registration is public information. Any Joe on the street can find out who owns what car, albeit much more slowly than the police. All you have to do is fill out a specific BMV form and mail it in, and in a few days they will send you the owner's information.
In Ohio it isn't public information anymore. The person requesting the info has to have a legitimate reason, such as to verify info on a job application or to get an address to serve court papers. See Ohio BMV Form 1173. Getting the address of the cute blonde you just saw in the Blue Honda with plate no. 12345 isn't a legitimate reason.

Link:

http://www.bmv.ohio.gov/pdf_forms/1173.pdf
  #46  
Old 05-02-2007, 10:47 AM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gfactor
1. I got stopped for expired plates in Vegas when I lived there. I was stunned because I'd just bought the car and put the plates on. Unfortunately, I'd put them on in reverse (front plate on the back; back on the front).
Other side of the coin:

When I lived in Waikiki, my car was stolen and soon abandoned in front of a strip club about a mile away. The cops called to tell me to get it at the impound lot. I picked it up without incident, got it repaired, and then weeks later . . . I figured out that the plates had been expired for several months.
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:59 AM
FatBaldGuy FatBaldGuy is offline
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In Utah I was pulled over the other day on my way to work because the trooper ran my plates and my name came up as "license suspended for medical." This was a total surprise to me, and when he got my DL and ran that, it turned out the medical guy was someone else with my first/last name (not middle) and a different birthdate.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:10 AM
Burton Burton is offline
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I live in MD. Everytime I've been pulled over they're run my registration afterwards.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:45 AM
anson2995 anson2995 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordelond
This is also true in Louisiana (except the stickers are on the lower corners) ... but I now wonder if not all states have such stickers on license plates?
We don't have them in New York, and the tags/plates don't expire. I've had the same plates for maybe 10 years, and transfered them from car to car. The registration has to be renewed, and that comes in the form of a windshield sticker.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:50 AM
Loach Loach is offline
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Using our in car computer system we can do both random inquiries and full inquiries on registrations and licenses. When we are doing random inquiries we enter in using a particular key (happens to be F1). Only general information will come up. Type of car, expiration etc. No personal information for the driver unless there is something wrong. If it is expired of there is a suspension then the full information comes up including name, date of birth and a picture. If there is probable cause then you hit another key (happens to be F5) and the full information comes up. That is used when you are pulling over a car, have a suspicious vehicle, are making an accident report.... Although they don't check each lookup to see if you are using it correctly there is a state audit every so often and if you are using F5 too often there better be an explaination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WonJohnSoup
I was a teen at the time and didn't really know what I saw on the screen, but I was surprised to see the word "warrant" pop up on so many vehicles and yet the officer didn't pull them over.
Our computers check three systems for warrants. One for traffic (failure to appears, unpaid tickets) one for state criminal warrants and NCIC. The traffic system is accurate. If it pops up with a warrant it is for the registered owner. The criminal system often gives "associated hits", maybe someone with the same birth day or name. NCIC spews out a bunch of crap(from all over the country) that very rarely has anything to do with the guy in front of you. It seems that if you have a hispanic name there will be a NCIC hit when your plate is run. Usually because one guy has been caught crossing the border about 20 times and has used a different name each time. Multiply that by how many illegals get caught and you can see how each common Spanish name can get a hit. Those false hits are very easy to toss out without pulling anyone over. Thats probably what you saw.

Last edited by Loach; 05-02-2007 at 11:51 AM..
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