Even with COVID, drivers still need to renew license plates

  • Don't forget to get your tags renewed!

Walk through any large parking lot in any Oklahoma city and chances are, if you look closely enough, you will notice numerous vehicles sporting expired Oklahoma tags.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more motorists are not in compliance with state law, which requires motor vehicles to have their license plate renewed annually. To not do so will result in being charged $1 per day, up to the maximum penalty of $100, said Paula Ross, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, which oversees the production and distribution of the state’s license plates.

Ross said that if a person skipped an entire year, for instance, not renewing their license plate, then they would have to not only pay for the current year, but for the prior year for which they had not paid.

While Ross said the OTC has not experienced a financial shortfall due to fewer people renewing their plates, she said she would be looking further into the matter for Southwest Ledger, adding that “as far as COVID” impacting the amount of people renewing their license plates, she had not been questioned about that.

But pointing to the OTC’s website, ok.gov/tax, “(v)ehicles are required to be registered annually, regardless of whether in operation, and that “(s)hould a vehicle remain unregistered for more than one year, the current registration, plus one back year of registration, with applicable delinquent penalties added to each, will be collected.”

And while cities like Oklahoma City and Edmond do not regularly monitor areas checking to see if vehicles are in compliance, the city of Norman has been getting attention of late for ticketing and towing vehicles in the city that have not renewed their license plate. 

In January, Oklahoma City news station KOKH-TV spent time in Norman talking to people who had failed to renew their tag, only to have their vehicle towed to an impound yard. The cost of the ticket and getting the vehicle freed added up into the hundreds of dollars for those interviewed by the Oklahoma City television station.

However, the Norman Police Department defended their actions in ticketing and impounding vehicles in the city with expired license plates.

Sarah Jensen, public information officer for the Norman Police Department said in a statement, in part: “Oklahoma State Law states that a vehicle can be impounded when its license plate is 90 days or more out of date.”

According to state law, put in place in 1994, it is up to the discretion of local law enforcement or Department of Public Safety whether or not to ticket or impound a vehicle for failing to renew those taxes which are due to the state.

This reporter has noticed a significant rise in the number of vehicles across the state sporting expired license plates, although Sgt. Gary Knight, with the Oklahoma City Police Department says that he has not personally noticed in uptick in expired tags recently.

“Yes, we gave leeway for COVID,” Knight said. “But now that tag agencies are open again, we do enforce the expiration dates on the tags.” He also said that motorists improperly placing tag decals for the year over the spot where the month is displayed “has been going on forever.”

“It’s kind of always been an issue,” added Knight.

In southwest Oklahoma, Officer Andrew Grubbs, spokesperson for the Lawton Police Department, said their office has been issuing citations more recently for expired tags. They are not having them towed, however.

As Trooper Lay explained at the OHP office in Oklahoma City, a real problem has been with motorists who have paper, temporary tags not being replaced.

And while many motorists think a license plate must be current in order to renew vehicle insurance, Louis Hemphill an insurance agent with Metro-Plex Insurance Agency in Norman and Yukon, said that “insurance doesn’t care anything about the tag.”

“They care about your driving,” Hemphill said. “They don’t care if it is tagged or not.”

What they do look for, he said, is the driver’s records and the vehicle title in order to“know if it has been in a wreck before.”

Hemphill works in offices in both Norman and Yukon and is quite familiar with government in Norman and Cleveland County. What he said he doesn’t understand is why Norman Police and towing companies are cracking down so hard on “people who are struggling” to keep their tags up to date.

With the multi-millions-dollar city budget, Norman should not be coming after those people, “if you don’t have your ducks in a row.”