Woonsocket cracking down on car registration scofflaws

Blackstone Valley

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Woonsocket police are cracking down on drivers who live in the city but don’t have their cars registered there.

Police Wednesday announced officers have issued close to 180 tickets as part of a newer law that allows police to track vehicles with out-of-state plates parked in driveways or garages.

The state requires people relocating to Rhode Island from out of state to obtain a new title and registration within 30 days of moving, but Woonsocket police have found not everyone does.

Over the past two years, police have issued 176 violations, with 34 of them issued in this recent round. Of the violations, police said 75% of the vehicles have Massachusetts plates – and the car tax may play a big role in that.

Breakdown of Violations By Registration State (Data provided by Woonsocket Police)

  • Connecticut: 8 violations
  • Florida: 8 violations
  • Georgia: 3 violations
  • Massachusetts: 133 violations
  • New Hampshire: 3 violations
  • New Mexico: 1 violations
  • New York: 3 violations
  • Rhode Island: 13 violations
  • Texas: 2 violations
  • Virginia: 1 violation

In Woonsocket, the car excise tax recently dropped from more than $40 per $1,000 to $35 per $1,000 as part of the car tax phaseout plan. However, the city’s car tax rate is still considerably higher than in Massachusetts, where the car excise tax is capped statewide at $25 per $1,000 vehicle valuation.

Police said they have been relying on tips from neighbors and eagle-eyed beat officers to spot cars parked in the city for more than 30 days, but have plates from places like Florida, New Mexico, Virginia. Woonsocket Police Lt. Thomas Calouro said officers on patrol make note of all cars with out-of-state plates that are parked overnight, collecting data to build evidence.

“This is the supporting documentation that goes to court so I can prove that those vehicles were in our city more than 30 days,” Calouro said, holding up a file folder stuffed with hundreds of pages. “None of these are a tiebreaker…Some of these are 36,  some are 42, they’re all in the high 30’s to generate a ticket. So the tie goes to the runner if you’re at 29, and maybe we catch you next time, maybe we don’t.”

Department of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Paul Grimaldi said certain grey areas exist when it comes to out-of-state registration, including for contracted workers who might be spending a couple months in Rhode Island, or college students who’re driving a family car. Grimaldi said there’s no formal way for these folks to alert the DMV to their registration status, but he said police or traffic tribunal judges may make an exception in these cases.

As for those who split their time between two states, Grimaldi said anyone spending multiple months in Rhode Island should re-register their vehicle. The same is true for those moving to a different municipality within Rhode Island.

“Technically you’re supposed to register a car where it’s garaged,” he said, reiterating that there is a 30 day deadline to do so. “From a municipality’s perspective, it’s about the making sure that the registration revenue goes to the appropriate locality. And remember, that the money goes into public services.”

Grimaldi said the ticket for failing to register in the correct location can cost drivers either $85 or $500 depending on the statute police invoke.

Police in Woonsocket said even if the Rhode Island car tax is eventually phased out, they will continue to crack down on improperly registered vehicles. They said since they use plates to track where vehicles are supposed to be, it’s also a public safety issue.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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