D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray says he will review a law under which D.C. police have arrested people for driving with expired license plates, suggesting another option would be to impound their vehicles.
In a letter this week to U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D.-Va.) the mayor wrote that “imprisonment may be perceived as quite harsh for this type of violation, and I will be reviewing the statue to determine if another option would be more appropriate.”
Gray was responding to a complaint from Webb last week that was spurred by the arrests of several people this year who were driving in the District with expired license plates.
In an Oct. 6 letter, Webb said, “there is absolutely no justification for jailing citizens whose only offense is an expired tag. ... this is a waste of the limited financial resources which the District should be directing toward fighting serious crime.”
Though critics question the arrest policy, which they believe is unique in the nation, D.C. police have interpreted the law as allowing them to jail drivers for the infraction.
Among those arrested and jailed were a Navy lieutenant commander whose Florida license plate had expired 53 days earlier and a mother whose young child was strapped in a car seat. Her tags had expired 38 days earlier.
In his letter to Webb, Gray wrote: “Each vehicle that arrives in the District without proper registration is a potential threat to our residents and visitors.”
He pointed out that there is a 30-day grace period after license plates expire.
“After 30 days past the expiration, a driver may be subject to custodial address, or given a criminal or civil citation,” Gray wrote. “The District of Columbia official code also provides for impoundment or seizure of vehicles that are not properly registered. It might be that this option is more appropriate to ensure compliance with the law.”
“Once our review is completed, if an alteration to the law is needed, I will work with the Council of the District of Columbia to ensure that it is done in an efficient and appropriate manner.”