When an officer stops you and requests to see your registration, there are a number of possible outcomes. If you give the officer your registration and everything checks out, you’re obviously okay. On the other hand, if you do not have proof of registration because the car is not registered, you will owe hundreds of dollars. If you don’t have your registration in the vehicle but it is registered, you will likely owe well over a hundred dollars even if you provide the court with proof of registration.
Although I personally think it’s absurd to fine someone for not having proof of something an officer could easily look up, the law is at least logical. You were obligated by law to carry something in your vehicle, and you failed to do so. What doesn’t make sense to me is the outcome when you have your registration but the officer either incorrectly enters your information or the MVD has made some kind of error. The officer will likely cite you for having no current registration and send you on your way.
The real trouble for you will start when you begin dealing with the courts. You can provide proof of registration, but that will only drop your ticket down to what you would have gotten had you failed to have your registration with you in the vehicle. In order to avoid paying a fine altogether, you will likely have to either A) convince the court to dismiss the ticket, B) convince the officer to dismiss the ticket, or C) go to a hearing.
Option A is not only difficult, but expressly prohibited by some courts. They will claim that they can’t dismiss the ticket altogether because the officer might say at the hearing that you didn’t have your registration in the vehicle. Even if you have a sworn statement from the officer saying you had a registration but he couldn’t verify it, every court I know of will still refuse to dismiss the ticket. They will likely not be able to give you a reason why the sworn statement is not enough, and the odds of you getting that sworn statement in the first place are astronomical.
Option B is at least as difficult, if not impossible. I have never seen an officer dismiss a ticket, nor have I ever heard anyone else mention an officer dismissing a ticket. I’ve never gotten a straight answer about why the police can’t or won’t do it, but I have some theories. My best guesses involve the fact they like getting overtime pay for showing up in court and don’t like admitting mistakes, but maybe I’m being cynical.
Option C is what normally happens. A lot of the time, the officer will testify that you didn’t have your registration card in order to salvage the ticket and avoid looking bad. It’ll be your word against his. On the other hand, if he is truthful, you will still have to prove that your registration was valid at the time he stopped you. Expect to take a good bit of time off of work not only for court, but for getting official proof of registration from the MVD. On top of that, the court may not find your evidence to be reliable. Some judges give so much deference to police officers that they would consider the official MVD records you provided less reliable than the officer’s recollection of what his computer told him by the side of the road weeks earlier.
When it comes to traffic laws, frustration is par for the course, and this is just one of the many irritating, unjust situations that people likely find themselves in every day. Everyone I know who has received a ticket has some kind of complaint about how the system works, yet no one seems to want to change it. Any idea why that is?