Brickbat: Mistaken Identity


Chad Dearth was confused when he started getting collection notices for toll violations from states along the East Coast. A Kansas resident, Dearth has never even been to some of those states. And the photo of the vehicle included in some of the notices wasn't his car. It was a big-rig truck. It turns out that the state of Kansas assigns identical number combinations to multiple license plates among those who get specialty or commercial plates. The truck had a number combination identical to the plate on an Impala Dearth he once owned. He sold the Impala years ago but still has the plate at his home. There are more than 625,000 Kansas vehicles with plates that share a number combination with at least one other vehicle.

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  1. That is an amazing story of government efficiency.

    I’ve shared the story of how the sync-up of electronic records between the states cost me $65….

    The last time I went to renew my license, the DMV wouldn’t let me. They said it was suspended. What? No it isn’t. Has to be a mistake!

    So the lady checks the computer… it says it is my North Carolina license that is suspended. And if they have my North Carolina licence suspended, then Florida is going to honor that and suspend my license until it is reinstated.

    “But I don’t have a North Carolina license”

    Well…you’ll have to clear that up with them.

    So I get in touch with North Carolina.

    “I’m trying to renew my license. They said my NC license is suspended… but I don’t have a NC license. Can you help me clear this up?”

    Sure! What’s your North Carolina license number?

    I don’t have one. I don’t have a North Carolina license.

    Well, I’ll need your North Carolina license number to look it up.

    Several rounds of back and forth, and she’s able to locate the problem. My license is not suspended. (I did live in NC…. 30 years ago). It was a mistake. They migrated to computer records about 10 years ago and it shows that I didn’t pay a reinstatement fee.

    For the license that I didn’t have. One that wasn’t suspended. The missing fee was from a time 20 years after I last had a north carolina license.

    So… to clear it up.. all I need to do is come down to the DMV and pay the reinstatement fee of $65. For the license that I don’t have. That wasn’t suspended. But for which the reinstatement fee wasn’t paid… according to the computer.

    A few more rounds of that and I finally realized that explaining that paying a fee to restore a suspended license for a license that doesn’t exist and wasn’t suspended just wasn’t going to work. Time to cut my losses and just pay the extortion money.

    “How do I pay it?”:

    You’ll can go to any DMV office in the state.

    No, I mean, how can I pay it right now? I don’t live in NC. I haven’t lived there in 30 years.

    You could have a friend go down to any DMV and pay it…

    “What about credit cards? Can you take a card over the phone?”

    No, you have to pay by cash or check…

    A couple of more rounds of that and I realized that I wouldn’t be getting my license renewed any time soon…

    “So… how long will it take to process after you receive the check?”

    It should be taken care of within two business weeks.

    “How will you notify me that it is done?”

    You can come down to any DMV office and they’ll be happy to check it for you…

    She ended up saying if I put a self-addressed, stamped envelope in with my payment they might send my receipt and confirmation.

    They didn’t.

    It took a month for the payment to work its way back to my state so I could renew my license.

    So I feel his pain. Dealing with that sort of bureaucracy is rough. The lady knew full well that I didn’t owe the money…but the system said so, and that was that. I was left with a choice of paying a lawyer to sue… or just paying the fine that I didn’t owe.

    It was only $65… but every time I decline to buy a 2 liter soda because it isn’t on sale …. I think about that $65 they cheated me out of. That’s a lot of sodas that I skipped because it was fifty cents too high.

    1. Next time, shut your mouth, claim both states as residency, and vote twice like everybody else. – “Resident” of “IL”

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    2. Should’ve gone all in…face fuck the DMV agent with a mace.

    3. The lady knew full well that I didn’t owe the money…but the system said so, and that was that.

      “Please let me speak with your supervisor…. Yes, Good Morning. May I have you name please? Thank you. Now, I am constantly told that civil servants such as yourself work for me, the taxpaying public. Therefore, I respectfully request that you, a responsible senior manager and expert in vehicle registration matters, promptly straighten this out for me. You can get the details from your subordinate, and I’ll be back in touch. Have a nice day!!”

    4. Actually, as dumb as they all are, this is what Congressmen used to be for. Which is why it pays not to make sworn enemies of them. A phone call to you local congressman if you’re not in a giant big city district usually gets stuff like this cleared up.

    5. Be glad you didn’t get arrested like my girlfriend.

      We were living in Indiana at the time, driving up to meet her mom in Highland Park, when a cop pulls us over in Glencoe, ostensibly because supposedly one of the two license plate lights is out, but much more likely because her car has a big rusty dent on one back panel from where the car was hit in an accident but she decided she’d rather have the money than fix the car.

      Cop tells her that her Illinois drivers license is suspended. She says she doesn’t have an Illinois license any more, shows her Indiana license. Turns out her non-existent Illinois license is suspended because she didn’t get an emissions test for her car which no longer has Illinois plates. They actually arrested her for this shit. Then the cop asked me if I could drive her car while they take her to the station, and I replied “Yes, I’ve never had an Illinois license.”

    6. Had a similar issue with my Grandpa’s car. My grampa used to live in SC around 7-8 years ago, moved to a retirement home in Florida. My car crapped out about 3 years ago and since he couldn’t really drive anymore, he gave it to me. Problem, I couldn’t register the car in TN because apparently when he left SC, he didn’t let them know, so according to SC he owed them money to renew his registration, and when I explained that he hadn’t renewed because he no longer lived there, and that neither he nor I lived in state, they wanted the SC license plate back. (He had been able to register the car in FL, I guess before the SC registration had expired, so he had a FL plate). It didn’t take me a month to resolve, but it was still a pain in the ass.

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  2. I guess the Kansas DMV has trouble with numbers more in than double digits.

    1. Somebody told them they were running out of numbers.

  3. Something similar happened to my brother except that the auto dealer screwed up. It gave his plate to another customer and vice versa. It caused quite a stir at the dealer as they could have had their registration privileges suspended. They paid the toll violations to hush it up.

  4. Chad Dearth has run into a dearth of common sense and efficiency, but, after all, we ARE dealing with Government Almighty here!

    THIS kind of a thing, at an extreme, could yet lead to the dearth of all of us!

    And THEN, we’ll find out, we’re not in Kansas any more!

    We are being led down the yellow brick road, to the Hemorrhoid City!

  5. the Kansas plates used to have each county on them too like RI was Riley and LY was Lyon county … made for fun w/grandpas

  6. Faux libertarians whimper a lot.

    1. Faux commenters say drivel and act like it’s insightful and edgy.

  7. he truck had a number combination identical to the plate on an Impala Dearth he once owned.

    Sub-editor: Unless you can show me an Impala Dearth you get 5 lashes.

    1. Well, to be sure, there IS a dearth of Impalas. (the car kind)

    2. Dearth, Impala. Sounds like a Star Wars Fan Fiction villain.

      1. I was thinking Car Wars fanfiction but yeah…

  8. Same story- A state I didn’t visit sent me a speeding violation. Wrong car model and color. The plate only partially matched, and it was not even from my state. The violation listed this information and showed the speed camera photo, but no one bothered to compare them. Idiots.

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  9. It turns out that the state of Kansas assigns identical number combinations to multiple license plates among those who get specialty or commercial plates. electrician torrance

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