The law says anyone can remove the plate from a vehicle with expired tags. You just bend the plate upwards or remove it completely and put it in a mailbox. The USPS will forward it to DMV and registration will not be renewed. —Gene A.
Gene here is referring to a previous column dealing with the enforcement—or lack thereof—of laws against low-level traffic violations, notably expired tags. While I’m happy to talk about whether it’s a good idea to go around prying the license plates off strangers’ cars (spoiler alert: It’s not), first I need to correct the record:
Last week’s column erroneously included expired tags on the list of violations deprioritized under Oregon Senate Bill 1510, signed into law in March 2022. (I misread “noncompliant registration plate LIGHT” as “noncompliant registration plate,” period.) It’s been fixed on the WW website, but those of you who read the print edition (perhaps as part of a Civil War reenactment group) deserved the truth too. Dr. Know regrets the error.
Now, on to removing those plates: I suspect you’re thinking of the procedure for surrendering your own plates when you no longer need them (perhaps you’re selling the car, or you just got vanity plates): You’re supposed to bend them and scrape off the tags, which keeps them from being reused illegally. After that, you can return them to a DMV office, or even mail them to DMV headquarters in Salem. (Or, you know, just recycle them with the rest of the aluminum.)
Look, I understand your resentment toward scofflaws, but even expired tags tell cops whose car they’re following. Why would you punish a miscreant by doing something that makes it easier for them to rob a bank? If the practice caught on, the system would REALLY break down. Anyone could ditch their plates and do whatever they wanted, blaming tag vigilantes for their car’s lack of identification.
This is more or less what’s happening in East Coast cities like New York and Washington, D.C., except it’s not missing plates, it’s bogus trip permits. These readily available fakes allow folks to stick it to The Man by dodging speed cameras and automated tolls. Of course, they also make it easier to move stolen cars. Car theft rings are more profitable, and now carjackings are way up. And you thought bad stuff only happened in Portland!
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