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What you need to know if pulled over out of state for expired Pa. sticker

Written by Teresa Boeckel/The York Daily Record | Aug 14, 2017 11:35 AM
car_registration_sticker.jpg

Pennsylvania is no longer giving out stickers when owners renew their vehicle registration. Some drivers have reported that they are being stopped out-of-state because of the expired stickers.(Photo: Teresa Boeckel, York Daily Record)

PennDOT says it has notified -- and sent reminders -- to authorities in other states.

(Undated) -- Daron Smith was driving in Silver Spring, Maryland, recently when a police officer pulled him over.

The traffic light had just turned yellow as he made a left turn, so he thought that might be the reason.

But the Metro Transit Police officer gave him a different reason: An expired registration sticker on his license plate.

Pennsylvania stopped issuing stickers with vehicle registration renewals at the end of 2016 to save more than $3 million dollars.

The Hellam Township resident said he shared that information with the officer, who responded he knew that but wanted to see Smith's registration card. He showed it to the officer.

"He just looked at my owner's card and let me go on my way," Smith said.

Southern Regional Police, which covers Pennsylvania communities near the Maryland state line, recently posted on its Facebook page that the department has been hearing about problems with the expired stickers when residents travel out-of-state. Some have received citations or tickets.

One woman responded on the department's post that she has received three citations in Chicago. She could not be reached for comment.

Others have shared in discussions on the Southern York County Facebook page that they have been pulled over while out-of-state because of the expired stickers. Smith was one.

The state Department of Transportation has notified law enforcement in other states, and even Canada, that residents are no longer required to display the stickers, said Alexis Campbell, a community relations coordinator with PennDOT.

The agency started communicating the changes at the end of last year, and "we've sent reminders a couple of times," she said.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators also has helped share the word with its Department of Motor Vehicle and state police members, communications and multimedia manager Claire Jeffrey said.

Pennsylvania is one of a few states that does not issue registration stickers.

Pennsylvania State Police say that if local residents are stopped in other states for just the expired sticker, they should politely make the officer aware of the change, Cpl. Adam Reed said.

Drivers should have the registration paperwork in their vehicle, and police officers have access to databases in other states to check the records, he said.

Maryland State Police do know about the change in Pennsylvania, and even if a trooper sees one of the expired stickers, "there's no reason to pull over the motorist" unless there is another violation, spokeswoman Elena Russo said.

"Obeying the law, that's what our state troopers focus on," she said.

Southern Regional Police Chief James Boddington said it seems to be a few isolated cases until agencies get used to the change. One man said his daughter received a ticket while her vehicle was parked at a college in the Washington, D.C. area. 

State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, saw the discussions on Facebook and her office contacted PennDOT. It learned of just one complaint.

The driver had received a ticket while traveling in Chicago, and PennDOT reached out to the law enforcement agency in that area. The ticket was dropped, the representative said.

Phillips-Hill, state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township; and state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, said their offices have not received any complaints about the expired stickers.

But if residents do have a problem, they should contact their local legislator. They can reach out and work with PennDOT on it, the representatives said.

Some worry about how the loss of these stickers will affect drivers.

The Rev. Gary Mitchell, who lives in New Castle near the Ohio border, recently wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper on the issue. He fears Pennsylvania drivers will be the target for a traffic stop when driving out-of state.

That concerns him because people have lost their lives over traffic stops, Mitchell said in a recent phone interview.

Police are doing their jobs, trying to provide for their families, and drivers need to know how to handle themselves in a situation.

"It could lead to tragedy," he said.

Jennifer Jones, of North Hopewell Township, said she recently received a ticket in Pennsylvania because of an expired inspection sticker on a relative's vehicle she was driving. The car had passed inspection at a local garage, but a new sticker wasn't placed on the windshield.

Jones said the state trooper who stopped her had a difficult time finding the records that it had passed inspection, and she thinks similar problems could arise with the license plate tags.

"This is not the way to go about trying to save a couple dollars," she said.

Some residents have debated on Facebook if they should remove the old, expired stickers from their license plates to avoid any problems.

PennDOT says it's up to the owners if they want to remove them. The stickers are not easy to take off, and that's why they're not required to do so, PennDOT's Campbell said.

Southern Regional Police, however, advises drivers to remove the expired stickers based on what has been happening, according to its Facebook post.

New license plates being manufactured will not have a spot for the sticker, Campbell said.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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