Don’t Make a Move Without Telling the DMV


As the officer walks towards your vehicle, your mind is going a million miles an hour. “What the heck did I do wrong? I wasn’t speeding. I’m wearing my seatbelt.”

“Good morning. The reason I stopped you is that the registration on your vehicle has expired.” You breathe a sigh of relief and then, confusion. You don’t recall getting the notice from DMV that the registration was due. The officer then asks for your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. Once you have handed him/her this information, you are presented with your next surprise. “Are you aware that your driver’s license expired last month?” Strike two.

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The California Vehicle Code states; Whenever any person moves or acquires a new address different from the address shown in the application or upon the certificate of ownership or registration card, such person shall, within 10 days thereafter, notify the department of his old and new address.

Whenever any person after applying for or receiving a driver’s license moves to a new residence, or acquires a new mailing address different from the address shown in the application or in the license as issued, he or she shall within 10 days thereafter notify the department of both the old and new address.

This changing of address may not seem like a big deal, but it is. In most cases the post office will not forward DMV mail, due to its confidential nature. If any of you have ever been late with your registration, you know that there is a late penalty assessed and it’s not cheap.

Once your license is expired, you are considered unlicensed. The difference between not having your driver’s license in possession when you are stopped and being an unlicensed driver is very big. Infraction versus misdemeanor.

Let’s get back to our original traffic stop and say you left your wallet with your driver’s license on the kitchen counter. You did notify DMV regarding your address change and properly renewed it two months ago. The officer verifies your driver’s license status as valid and issues you a citation to show proof that you have a driver’s license and proof of correction on the expired registration.

In contrast, consider this scenario: The officer learns that your driver’s license is expired. At this point you are issued a citation for being an unlicensed driver (a misdemeanor) and are advised that you can no longer operate this vehicle. Thankfully your gracious wife is traveling with you and has a valid driver’s license and will now be operating the vehicle. Oh, and in addition to the citation you received, your wife will be doing the “I told you so” routine all the way home.

Keeping DMV informed on your address changes is very important for many more reasons. Should you or a family member have a need to be notified by law enforcement regarding a serious injury crash or death notification, that information is where everything starts.

If you have just moved here from another state, like everything else, we have a law regarding that; California registration is required of a vehicle last registered in a foreign jurisdiction, an application for registration shall be made to the department within 20 days following the date registration became due.

This simply means that once you establish residence here in California, you have 20 days to register your vehicle here. Not 20 days after your current out-of-state registration expires.

I know that many of you are thinking, “Have you been down to DMV lately? The line is out the door!” Well, I recently met with one of the DMV managers and was assured that you can go online to dmv.ca.gov and take care of these required address changes. You can also make an appointment online with the local DMV and they will be happy to assist you with these changes at no charge.

One final little bit of information. Your vehicle may be currently registered in just one person’s name. But another person would likely have an interest in the vehicle if something were to happen. You might consider having both persons listed on the registration. This could assist you greatly in case of an unplanned family emergency/death and transfer of the vehicle is necessary.

Let’s hope that none of those last discussed issues ever develop and that you make the appropriate DMV notifications so you can just go out and enjoy the ride.


Monty Hight

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.

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