Traffic Cop: Follow Registration Regulations to Avoid Citation

An expired registration is one of the many vehicle code violations a person is more likely to receive a citation for – something that has nothing to do with how fast they are going, not stopping for a stop sign or even not signaling that lane change or turning movement. It’s also on the top of many of your pet-peeve traffic violations list.

No person shall drive, move, or leave standing upon a highway, or in an offstreet public parking facility, any motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, pole or pipe dolly, or logging dolly, unless it is registered and the appropriate fees have been paid under this code.

Registration fees are where the California Highway Patrol gets their funding for their budget. So needless to say when I was out on the street, I made certain I was doing my share to keep the budget balanced. Now look what has happened.

The vehicle code further states that if you are someone that has just recently moved here from another state or country, that you have up to 20 days to register your vehicle. If you have changed addresses you have 10 days to notify DMV of your correct address.

You just registered your vehicle in South Dakota last month and due to a promotion were transferred to California. Even though that registration isn’t going to expire for another 11 months, California registration fees are due within 20 days of you establishing residency. There goes that first month’s bonus.

To go along with this requirement to register your vehicles and have current address information every owner, upon receipt of a registration card, shall maintain the same or a facsimile copy thereof with the vehicle for which issued. If you are someone that tows a trailer, you need to make certain that you have that registration card available. Depending on the type of trailer, many folks will keep the registration in the glove compartment of the towing vehicle while others will secure the registration in a weather proof container affixed to the trailer.

Later on in this series we will discuss the various types of license plates and the laws as they pertain to displaying the plates. What about those disabled placards? No person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued may lend the placard to any other person, nor may any disabled person knowingly permit the use for parking purposes of the placard or identification license plate by one not entitled to it. A person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued may permit another person to use the placard only while in the presence or reasonable proximity of the disabled person for the purpose of transporting the disabled person. A violation of this subdivision is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Additionally the vehicle code allows a law enforcement officer to further investigate the possible misuse of these placards by requiring written proof from the alleged user of this placard to verify that in fact they are authorized to use this placard.

There has been countless times as a retired citizen, when I have observed a vehicle parked in a designated disabled parking space with these disabled placards displayed from the rear view mirror, only to see some young kid or what I perceive to be someone without a physical disability, jump into the driver’s seat, without any passengers and take off. I am certainly not saying that young kids or persons that I perceive not to have a physical disability are not entitled to this placard, which is the responsibility of a qualified physician or physical therapist. What I am suggesting is that these placards are issued for a specific purpose and should not be abused or used unlawfully just so someone can get a better parking space.

To conclude this section on registration the final aspect in dealing with registration and proof of registration is the driver of a motor vehicle shall present the registration or identification card or other evidence of registration of any or all vehicles under his or her immediate control for examination upon demand of any peace officer.

So what’s the big deal if you don’t have your registration card in the vehicle, or you forgot to notify DMV of your address change or any of those other seemingly trivial requirements? In most cases, there is no big deal and you are most likely to receive a proof of correction citation, but there has been many occasion when a very serious incident has occurred and there is a great need to notify family members or legal guardians of that situation and for the time being only the information that you provided is what is available. After a couple hours of investigation that information may be available, but sometimes that short time was all that could have made a difference.

Next time you walk out to your vehicle, take a moment and see if your registration is current and the address is also up to date. Remember that even though you are going to pickup something for grandma in her vehicle that disabled placard is not for you. Enjoy the fact that yes we do have a lot of rules, but without many of them, we couldn’t just go out and enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.
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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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3 Responses

  1. Avatar Don says:


    Can you carry the registration in your wallet along with proof of insurance. We had some breakins to vehicles the last couple of weeks in the Garden Tract, and that is all they took from the vehicles (two of them) vehicle registration and their proof of insurance, which contains names and address along with other information, which hints of identification theft as that is all they took.

    • Avatar monty hight says:

      You can carry it in your sock if you like. It just has to be available and presented to the officer upon request, Thanks

  2. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Sadly enough, California smog laws are some of the toughest in the United States. California's registration fees are out of hand and the pathetic DMV is short handed making it an all day project to renew license and regs unless you pay 50-dollars to a private agency on Hilltop Drive.

    The Golden state is now bronze or tin in customer service and stringent regulations.

    But, of course Monty, It's our duty to obey the law and go out and enjoy the expensive ride.

    What the hell, and no wonder so many do otherwise. Give us a break.