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Expired D.C. Tags Could Now Prompt Impounding

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Some worry that the new proposal for car with expired tags could lead to abuses by rogue tow truck drivers.
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Some worry that the new proposal for car with expired tags could lead to abuses by rogue tow truck drivers.

As the D.C. Council moves to end the practice of arresting drivers for expired tags, a new debate is brewing over what the penalty should be for lapsed tags. Under a proposal before the council, police will no longer be able to arrest motorists whose tags have expired for more than 30 days, but they will be able to impound the vehicle.

To hear AAA Mid-Atlantic's John Townsend tell it, the council is replacing one bad law with another.

"If you do this, you will have thousands of cars impounded costing motorists thousands of dollars -- that’s our concern," says Townsend. "While it’s not as draconian before, in many cases it's going to be more costly to motorists."

Assistant Police Chief Patrick Burke insists that police have no intention of using such a law to tow every single car they find with expired tags.

"It’s very personnel intensive for police officers to be out there waiting for a tow truck when we are trying to keep our city safe," says Burke.

Rather, Burke says the proposal gives officers the option of going after motorists who may be driving unsafe vehicles. The proposal would merely give officers the discretion to tow a car with expired tags, which he says they would only use to keep potentially dangerous vehicles off the roads.

Townsend still worries that lawmakers haven’t thought through the proposal. And in particular, he worries what happens when police begin towing all of these vehicles.

"Our concern is that the District doesn’t have the capability to handle a sudden flood of cars, then if you bring in other towers, you may have the scenario of rogue towers that will hide cars and run up the meter and charging people hundreds of dollars – it’s done across the country," saws Townsend.

Burke says police have looked at the issue, and will only use authorized towers. Townsend hopes the council will scrap the towing provision altogether. The council will likely vote on the bill before the end of the year.

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