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On Duty with the CHP: CHEATERS program lets citizens help enforce laws

Do you regularly see a vehicle in your neighborhood with out-of-state plates? California Highway Patrol officer David Singer says that’s a likely sign of someone who isn’t in compliance with state registration code.
Do you regularly see a vehicle in your neighborhood with out-of-state plates? California Highway Patrol officer David Singer says that’s a likely sign of someone who isn’t in compliance with state registration code. Kansas City Star

Have you ever noticed when you go to Yosemite, you have to pay a fee? Sure, we all pay federal taxes and through them I am sure some of those funds go to the National Park system, but there is also a usage fee. Thereby, those who utilize the parks pay a little bit more for park access, but folks who do not utilize the parks don’t pay those extra fees.

In the same way, if you live and/or work here in California, and you own a car, motorcycle, RV, trailer, boat, etc., you are required to pay registration fees.

Because not everyone does what they’re supposed to, there’s the CHEATERS program: “Californians Help Eliminate All of the Evasive Registration Scofflaws.” Wow, that is a giant acronym!

California has a serious problem with out-of-state vehicle registration. The state loses millions of dollars a year in revenue from residents who unlawfully register their vehicles in other states. In order to maintain our large and complicated roadway system, California needs the fees associated with our vehicle registration requirements.

The California Highway Patrol (and other law enforcement agencies) enforce the state’s registration requirements. But that’s among many other duties. I’ve always said in these columns I am reaching out to the public for your assistance, and you can definitely help us enforce the registration requirements.

The CHEATERS program was developed in 2004 and, since its inception, has helped recover $11.5 million. In 2014 alone CHEATERS collected more than $2.1 million in unpaid registration fees!

By law, owners have 20 days to register a vehicle after establishing residence or employment in the state.

The three most common reasons people have for not completing the registration process are: lack of awareness of registration laws; evading payments; inability to comply with air pollution control laws (the vehicle won’t pass smog inspection). Through the CHEATERS program, the CHP is able to assist many residents by educating them regarding the law, providing information about smog financial assistance, or bringing violators to justice.

By law, owners have 20 days to register a vehicle after establishing residence or employment in the state. And a common mistake is for someone to register their cars, but not their boat or RV.

How can you help? Maybe you’ve seen a car in your neighborhood for the last six months with a local school bumper sticker but out-of-state registration — it’s probably not in compliance. Anyone who spots an out-of-state license plate can report it anonymously on the CHP’s website. It’s important to include the following: the license plate state and number, date and time it was observed, where it was observed, the make, model and color of the vehicle, and any additional comments which might help — for example: California school bumper stickers are great indicators the owner of the vehicle lives nearby.

Also, let me give you a few warnings! Don’t try to write down this information while you’re driving, have a passenger do it for you or pull over first. Also, never confront anyone with an out-of-state plate. Most folks won’t take kindly to strangers pointing out vehicle code violations on their cars. Just write down the information and get it to us, we will take it from there.

Everyone who owns a motor vehicle enjoys and uses our roadway system. And just like the national parks, if you’re going to use it, you need to pitch in and pay for it. CHEATERS is not about trying to get a scofflaw in trouble, it’s about fair equitable treatment and taking care of our state.

California Highway Patrol officer David Singer’s “On Duty” column is published bimonthly. He can be reached at dsinger@chp.ca.gov or on Facebook: CHP Central Division

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