Am I pushing my luck?

This past Thursday, I was on my way home around 1am and got stopped by the police for speeding (54mph in a 46pmh zone). They gave me a field sobriety test, which I passed and then ran my plates. The officer informed me that I had no insurance and no license. I was not suprised.

I do, in fact, have a valid license and insurance. However, for the past 5 (or so) years, every time I get stopped, the cop says the same thing. I’ve tried, in vain, to get the problem, fixed in person and over the phone with the Ohio BMV.

I assured the officer that I was legal. No luck. They cuffed me and put me in the back on the police car. After searching my car, they impounded it, took my plates and my physical license. While in the cop car, I told the officer my “5-year” sob story and she performed a little “street justice”. She reduced the speeding charge to “not displaying front plate” (true, I didn’t have a front plate). So, the complete ticket read: 1) not displaying front plate, 2) driving without valid insurance, 3) driving without valid license. I was then taken to the local station where I bailed myself out for $250. I spent the next 2 hours calling friends (still cuffed!) to pick me up.

I was still not angry or panicked because I knew this would all be straightened out in the end. Like it always was.

The next day, I called in “sick” to work and spent the day on the phone with the BMV and local prosecutor. When I called the BMV, I (finally!) got someone with a sympathetic ear. She put me on hold to do some research into my driving record.

First, a little background. My parents cursed me at birth by giving me 2 middle names. Ok, back to the story…

When the lady at the BMV came back on the line, she asked, “Sir, what is your middle name?”. “Aha!”, I said, “this may be the root of the problem?! I have 2 middle names!”. That was it. The BMV had me listed in their system twice. One record read valid, and the other (incorrectly) read invalid.

She merged the 2 accounts and faxed everything (saying I was totally valid/legal) to the local prosecutor. I met with the prosecutor later that day. He dismissed both the “driving without insurance” and “driving without license” charges and I ended up paying a $45 fine for the “not displaying front plate” charge. The $45 was taken out of my $250 bail and the rest is to be returned to me.

I then got a ride to the impound lot and got my car out…for $77.

(If you’re still with me this far, thanks…)

I plan on writing letters to the BMV, thanking the operator who finally tracked down a problem that has been causing me havoc for 5+ years. I also plan on writing a letter of thanks to the prosecutor who worked overtime on Friday to get my situation straightened out. No letter of thanks to the cop. I’m not happy or mad, she was just doing her job.

Ok…so, my question is: Should I attempt to get my $77 (from the impound lot) and my “burnt sick day” money back? How about money for the inconvenience? Am I pushing my luck? Would trying to recoop my money just waste more time/money?

Thanks for listening…

It can’t hurt to try. I’d say fire off a couple of well-phrased letters explaining the trouble caused to you by a mix-up on their part and that you require compensation for the inconvience, both time-wise and financially that their fault has caused you. I don’t know what the legal stance is, but I can’t see how they could deny that they have caused you severe inconvenience through incompetence on their part. Congratulations on handling it so calmly so far - now get what’s owed to you.

The fact that someone found your problem and solved it indicates to me that it was solvable all along, albeit with some effort. The fact that you chose not to devote the appropriate time and energy to solving it means you shouldn’t get off the hook for the effects of not doing so.

As for the sick day – no chance. You took the day off of work. You were not producing widgets during that time. If your company has a program to allow you free time to take care of such things and you didn’t take advantage of it, it’s your fault.

Money for the inconvenience? From whom? You cast no blame on the police officer, and the BMV seemed to have been helpful once you took a little time to get the problem solved.

Sorry, but no sympathy here. I’ve skated by on things like that before myself, and when I finally got caught, I just shrugged and said, “Yeah, I should have done this earlier. My bad.”

Stankow you hippie.

The problem here was that he’s TOLD the local police about the problem and it took 5 years for someone to get around to merging the files. That’s the problem. If the clerks had been doing their job right, it would have been fixed the first time, or if someone was REALLY on the ball, fixed before he got pulled over the first time.

And if you think its easy to tell any government agency to fix your file then I wanna live where you are.

<rereads the OP>

Yeah ya hippie!

Malaka… You can try… it may take a lawyer but that’d probably cost more money both in paying the lawyer and in your time. You can always try sending a few letters… But I wouldn’t waste sicktime/lawyer money unless you’re looking at recouping more than 77$

Hey, I know all about how hard it is to get a file changed, CRorex – I’m a military personnel officer who’s still trying to get my pay records to reflect the fact that my name changed to a hyphenate (and in the personnel system, it’s not hyphenated anyway because the software doesn’t support characters in names).

My point of contention is that the problem still existed and malaka didn’t get it solved and knew full well that there was still a problem. The solution took a single day. I agree that the source of the problem was the BMV, but given the possible consequences, it’s still malaka’s fault that he didn’t get it taken care of.

Hippie. Hee.

A specific example:

This past Thanksgiving, I was driving back from my grandparents house in Cincinnatti and got pulled over for speeding. The officer wrote me a ticket, but then informed me that he was getting “conflicting reports regarding my driving status”. The exchange went something like this:

Cop: The BMV records show that you do not carry valid insurance, but it also shows that you have a valid license. Can you explain?

Me: I wish I could. This has been happening for ages. I do have valid insurance and I do have a valid license.

Cop: Well, since it’s Thanksgiving and the records show a valid license, I’ll let you go with just a speeding ticket. However, you must bring proof of insurance to court with you! If I were you I’d get this “problem” fixed.

Me: Officer, I’ve tried and tried. I’ve been to the BMV in person and called numerous times on the phone to no avail. I’m at the end of my rope!

Cop: It sounds like you’re not taking this very seriously. I’d check in person to see what the problem is.

Me: Sir, with all due respect, you’re not listening. Can you talk to me “off-the-record”? Guy-to-guy? I have been to the BMV in person. Several times. They don’t know what the problem is either. What would you do in this situation?

Cop: I’d take this problem a bit more seriously and get it solved.

Me: sigh How, sir, how? Exactly what would you do in this situation? I’m just asking for some friendly advice for a guy with no options left!

Cop (finally in regular guy mode): Well…I can give you the name of a worker at the BMV. Contact her, explain the situation and you’ll get this problem solved. <gives me Mrs. SomeLady’s name>

The next day, I call the BMV:

Me (on hold for 20 minutes): Can I please speak with Mrs. SomeLady?

BMV: Please hold.

Mrs. SomeLady (10 minutes later): Hello, how can I help you?

Me: <I describe the problem and give my SSN>

Mrs. SomeLady: Well, it says here you do have valid insurance and a valid license. I suspect the BMV computers are slow in updating your information or it’s a one time problem.


So…what do I do from there? Get angry? That doesn’t do any good.

The above scenario has been played out in many different forms and circumstances. Each time, I’m told “the BMV computers are slow” or “It’s a one-time problem”.

This past Friday, when the BMV worker finally tracked down the problem, I couldn’t stop gushing to her on the phone. Thanking her over and over for finally “having a bit of sympathy” and actually doing some research into the problem. It turns out that my record was divided into 2 accounts…a main account and a sub account. Sometimes the system updated the main account which would automatically update the sub account. Sometimes the system updated the sub account, which did not update the main account. Depending on which account was called up by the police dispatcher, resluted in whether or not I was pronounced “legal to drive”.

I understand state workers. They deal with the dregs of society day-in and day-out. I can only assume that they get jaded fairly quickly after hearing “every story in the book”. However, there are diamonds in the rough…like the woman from this past weekend. Someone who will actually listen and perform. i don’t think she went above and beyond the call of duty. She just did her job! But, for that, I’m glad.

However, what about all the others before her who didn’t do their jobs? They caused me grief, time and money!

I think you’re pushing your luck. On one hand, it couldn’t hurt to ask for the $77 back. On the other hand, your chances of actually getting it are near nil. I wouldn’t waste a lot of time or effort on it. Your chances of recovering the money go up if you hire a good lawyer, but that’s going to cost, so you’ll have to sue for legal fees as well, and it just gets silly. It’s much easier to get an agency to waive a fee than cut a check.

And I think Stankow is being unnecessarily harsh. You had tried to rectify the problem in the past, been told it was solved, so what were you to do? It’s very difficult to tell someone that something’s wrong when they bring up the records and it’s working fine.

And, Stankow, I don’t think malaka is looking to recover the sick time from his employer. That wouldn’t make any sense. He’d like to recover the value of the sick time from the BMV, because he wouldn’t have had to use it if they hadn’t screwed up.

“The fact that someone found your problem and solved it indicates to me that it was solvable all along, albeit with some effort. The fact that you chose not to devote the appropriate time and energy to solving it means you shouldn’t get off the hook for the effects of not doing so.”

I’d hate to have you as a boss, Stankow. I fix problems for a living, and sometimes it takes a while. The fact that I don’t solve a problem on the first day does not inescapably mean that I was slacking up until it was solved. By your logic, all solvable problems should be solved on the first try. Strangely, the real world doesn’t work that way, especially with an intermittent problem like malaka’s.

Yeah You’re pushing your luck

Stop Speeding !! :slight_smile:

If I were malaka’s boss, and he came to me with that story, I’d have given him the day to take care of it. However, if he’d called in sick and them came back later and told me the true story, I’d be pissed.

My logic in no way implies that solvable problems must be solved on the first try. But the fact that someone was able to take care of it that easily once the proper time and effort were devoted to it indicates to me that, had he done so, he could have taken care of it.

From a follow-up post, malaka says:

Sengkelat, in your job of fixing problems, if you’re told that the same problem was a one-time error more than once, do you assume that it’s cleared up or do you dig deeper until you’re dead certain that it’s cleared up?

I think the general consensus is that I could press the issue, but it would probably end up in more wasted time/money. And in the end, I may get nothing at all. Se la vie…

I may take Francesca’s idea and simply write some letters indicating that I’d like to be compensated for, at least, the impound bill.

FWIW, the morning after, I woke at 7:30 (on 3 hours sleep) and tried, in vain, to contact several coworkers for a ride to work. In the end, I guess I’m kind of glad I couldn’t find anyone. I really needed the day off to take care of the situation. FYI, I am a consultant and work for reasonable people who, probably, would have let me have the day off had I explained the situation. However, call it what you will, (sick day, vacation day, personal day, etc.), I only have a limited number of them and I hated to burn one like this.

Also, when I’m told that the same problem is a one-time error more than once, I usually do attempt to dig deeper. But how do you convince a state worker that they’re wrong? “Please check my record”, “It’s fine”, “Please check again”, “It’s fine”, “Please check again”…

And finally, stankow, I think you got more worked up over this than I ever did.

Thanks all…

I understand. Believe me. My street address is fairly long, and including the apartment number, it often (read: almost always) extends beyond the length of the number of characters that display on printed addresses. The computer database has all the information, but the apartment number gets truncated when it prints. This has happened to me numerous times.

The people on the other end just don’t listen. You tell them “I have this problem, this is what it is” and they still don’t listen. I was owed a check from an insurance company. After waiting the appropriate length of time and not receiving it, I called up. 30 minutes (at least) on hold later, I finally speak to an agent who says they sent it and it was returned. I check the address in their system, it’s correct. I explain the problem to the agent. She says it is correct now and will resend. 2 weeks later, I have to call again, and wait on hold again, and get another agent. Again, the check was returned. Again I explain the problem. I finally suggested an alternate way of entering the info that was shorter to preclude the truncation, and managed to get her to change it. But what was I supposed to do? The first time the lady said she fixed it. How do I know she hasn’t fixed it, if I can’t see her screen? If I could see her screen, I could have spotted the problem the first time, but just saying “Are you sure you fixed it? Really? You don’t just think you fixed it but really didn’t fix it, did you?” Sorry, that doesn’t work. The only reason I came up with the solution the second time is that because of the missed check I had identified a pattern with some of my mail. Sometimes I get the mail when the apartment number truncates. That’s the only reason I figured it out - I’ve seen it printed on my mail “apt x” instead of “apt xxx”. You can’t fix their computer problem, and you can’t identify the problem because you can’t see their screen, and in my case they couldn’t identify the problem because the number of characters in the storage field is larger than the number of characters in the print field, but they can’t tell that because they don’t print out the label in front of them, they just alter the data on the screen.

This wasn’t so much a case of diligent effort on the part of malaka being required, it needed someone who could physically see the data checking the computer system.

Malaka, I’m not sure you’ll get anywhere. The basic rule is shit happens. They couldn’t identify the problem because they didn’t know the specific detail about you that’s different (2 middle names), and I imagine the 2 records thing actually works in most instances, or else was a fluke because of 2 different identities (Malaka A. Doper and Malaka C. Doper) having accounts with the same DL number. And of course you couldn’t ID the problem on your own because you couldn’t check their system, and wouldn’t be familiar with it anyway. Ergo, they fall back on a common problem, the computer is slow to be updated and it’s probably a one time problem.

I’m not entirely certain, but I think the $77 fee covers the fact that it had to be towed. So even though the insurance and license charges were dismissed, negating the arrest and thus the need for the bail, the towing had happened and can’t be erased. I’m not sure if by missing the front plate that would have resulted in impounding the car on it’s own. I think that’s mainly the invalid driver’s license, but still, what’s done is done.

The lost wages is your tough noogies. The BMV was not responsible for your lack of working that day. You chose not to go to work, to call in sick and burn a day (sick, vacation, personal, whatever). You did say you made a few phone calls, and I’ve been there. I know. (I got my car flooded in Allison). Still, they’re not going to feel responsible for your not being able to get a ride to work. Take a bus, call a cab, walk, call your boss and have him send somebody to get you - there are lots of options you had. So I don’t think it will do much good.

However,… I suppose it can’t hurt you to try. If you want to write a few letters, that’s probably a minimum effort on your part that has an outside shot at working. There was a situation of my own that I had sometime back that didn’t seem promising but I wrote the letter and got pleasantly surprised, so I suppose you never can tell. I certainly wouldn’t put any more effort into it than that, unless maybe you got a lawyer working on contingency, and then how much of a percentage are they taking out of your one day’s wages, and how much effort is going into that? Doesn’t seem worth it to me.