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Incompetent Evidence

Want to easily annoy a uniformed police officer? When you see him walking into a store (presumably minding his own business), say “I didn’t do it!” Maybe you could point at your friend and say “He did it!” Worst yet, grab your child by the shoulder and say “Act right or that policeman will take you to jail.” The officer understands what you are doing, but it’s not original and it’s highly irritating. Unfortunately, truck officers hear similar things in court about certain overweight tickets. The article this week focuses on one such excuse heard a whole lot this time of year. What do December 31st, March 31st and June 30th all have in common? These are the days of the year one set of truck or trailer registration plates expire. At the stroke of midnight the following day, if you as the vehicle owner have not paid your annual registration tax to the Secretary of State, you have a big problem. Your truck or trailer is overweight on registration. A key concept to understand is that cars are not trucks. A car is a first division vehicle per the Illinois Vehicle Code. It is required to be registered when operated on the highways of this state, but the registration does not have to be weighted. This is why when you forget to renew your registration for your car, the police officer does not drag you off to a scale. Trucks and trailers are second division vehicles, which by law have to be registered with a maximum weight. On January 1st, Illinois tow-trucks who have not re-upped are overweight on registration. On April 1st, Illinois apportioned plates. July 1st, Illinois flat weight truck and trailer plates. When a police officer stops a second division vehicle with expired registration, or no registration at all, he may order the driver to follow him to the nearest available scale for weighing. And yes, the officer must actually weigh the vehicle on the scale. There is no wiggle room. Upon weighing the vehicle, the officer may assess the maximum fine based on the gross weight and the registration plate needed to cover the weight. For instance, if the truck weighs 34,780 pounds, the maximum fine is the cost of a 36,000 pound “L” truck plate, plus court fees. This is a criminal matter, and it stings the pocketbook for sure. Not only does the driver or owner have to pay the fine, but he still needs to purchase the registration. In essence, he could be paying for the registration twice. The ticket and the fine money do not re-register the vehicle. So what does this have to do with court and excuses the officers have heard a million times over? Overweight on registration fines for expired plates can exceed $3000. It’s a lot of money, and it is understandable that registered owners who sent their money in are angry when the officer tells them the plates are still expired. This being mid-August, many overweight on registration citations issued in July for expired Illinois flat-weight plates are coming due in court. Defendants bring in proof that they paid the SOS or a currency exchange for the new plates. They bring in a renewal card instead of the actual renewed registration. These documents may help mitigate the fine, but they are not defensive evidence. In 625 ILCS 5/3-401(d)(4), the statute is clear: “Proof of proper Illinois registration issued by the Secretary of State, or the appropriate registration authority from the foreign state, shall be the only competent evidence of payment.” ITEA truck officers understand registration is expensive, especially for a fleet of trucks, and this is a competitive market. Every dollar counts and sometimes it is tough to get all the cash together by the last day of the registration year. However, the responsibility still falls on the carrier. Just because some applies for a mortgage doesn’t mean they can move into the house. Just because applied and paid for a concealed carry permit does not mean he can carry concealed.  A person can move into their new house at turnkey. A citizen can pack heat when the Illinois State Police issue the carry permit. A truck owner can lawfully put his truck back on the road once the SOS has issued the valid registration. It’s a relatively black and white issue. The ITEA greatly encourages our truck officers to do right by the truckers in these incidents. This does not mean dismiss the ticket because of late compliance, but for sure reduce the charges and give the owner some money back. That’s the competent and reasonable thing to do.

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