North Andover cops crack down on out-of-state plates
By M. Renee Buckley / [replacer_a]
Wed Aug 12, 2009, 04:16 PM EDT
North Andover - North Andover Police are making a push to let residents know that keeping and driving a vehicle with out-of-state plates while living in North Andover is a serious offense, and one they take seriously.
Lt. John Carney said the North Andover Police Department is constantly investigating cases of improperly registered vehicles in town, with an average of 25 investigations open at any given time. He stressed that the ramifications of operating such vehicles are many — not just at the state level, but locally as well.
“We always run across a lot of vehicles in town displaying out-of-state plates. It’s not just New Hampshire. It’s many, many other states. We have an officer who investigates those — Officer Patrick Noonan — to see if they’re legitimate,” said Carney.
There are a few instances in which keeping out-of-state plates on a vehicle garaged in North Andover is legal. One allowance is for students who attend school here — at Merrimack College, for instance — but who live out-of-state otherwise. Additionally, those in the military are allowed to keep their home state plates on their vehicles.
But for the majority of the population, driving an improperly registered vehicle is illegal, and can pose a number of other issues aside from the hefty $500 fine.
One issue, and perhaps the one that could hurt a resident most, is whether the vehicle is properly insured according to Massachusetts’ laws.
“We’re not sure if you’re carrying the right amount of insurance in the event of a crash. New Hampshire doesn’t require that you carry insurance but Massachusetts does. Unless you’re insured, and unless you have coverage on your car for an under- or uninsured motorist, you could suffer a loss. They [the other driver] might have no insurance at all,” he said.
Another issue arising from North Andover residents keeping out-of-state plates on their cars is the loss of excise tax revenue to the town. Hundreds of dollars in revenue could be gained if cars were properly registered, said Carney. Excise tax is currently $25 per $1,000 valuation.
“Sometimes we see people driving to school in the morning dropping their children off and their car’s registered out-of-state. That would prompt an immediate investigation because obviously someone who’s not paying their share of taxes here shouldn’t be using our school system,” said Carney.
An investigation entails finding out to what person or company the vehicle is legally registered, finding where the person actually resides, and how long he or she has been living here.
“After 30 days you’re required to register here,” he said.
And even if a person moves from within Massachusetts to North Andover, he or she is still required to notify the registry of the new address. Again, failing to do so means the town misses out on its share of excise tax revenue, while another town collects it.
Although the crime of operating an improperly registered vehicle carries a $500 fine, Carney said North Andover police first give residents the option to take care of the issue.
“We find most people are willing to comply once they are confronted by an officer about it,” he said.
If a resident fails to comply, the penalties are high.
“If we felt they were supposed to be registered in Massachusetts, and they refused, we would issue them the fine, and tow the car for being improperly registered. And if they didn’t have any insurance, that would be another $500 fine,” said Carney.
He said while this does sometimes happen, most people are willing to convert once they know the consequences of failing to do so.