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Sticking it to the MVA with the sticker

February 29, 2000

Police arrested Michael T. Rohrer, who is a Smithsburg Town Council member, last week and charged him with printing up a phony license plate expiration sticker on his home computer so he could continue driving even though he did not have the insurance necessary to legally register his car. Police allege the car hadn't been registered since 1996.

Obviously, I would never advocate a Gandhi-like civil disobedience against the state's motor vehicle bureaucracy, especially where insurance is concerned and where others can suffer from our actions or inactions. This is due to my profound respect for government. And because it's easy to get caught.

But be honest, how many of you, at least for a couple of seconds, didn't fantasize over how satisfying it would be to be able to Stick it to the Man.

Isn't this everyone's dream, really? To find a way to short-circuit that state bureaucratic migraine that uses motor vehicles as an excuse to invade your privacy, stomp all over your constitutional rights and charge you a minimum of $20 every time you use the door?

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Here's the deal, and it's so simple I can't believe I didn't - I mean I can't believe that someone else didn't think of using the technique.

On the bottom corners or your license plate you will find a number corresponding to the month on the left and a two-digit number corresponding to a year on the right. If your left number is 06 and the right is 00, that means your plate expires in June of this year.

Police allege Rohrer simply manufactured a right-hand number (in this case "01") that kept him a year ahead of the game.

This reminded me of the good old days in West Virginia when you could buy a state inspection sticker for $7 and the garage man would never even have a clue what kind of car it was going on, not that I ever did that because to do so would have been awful.

But if the Founding Fathers had a flaw, it was failure of foresight to add an amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the infringement of the right to keep and bear cars.

People roundly criticize the folks whom they characterize as the "gun nuts," but a quick look at what government, given the opening, has done to the automobile should tell you the "gun nuts" aren't just whistling Dixie. Well, come to think of it, they are whistling "Dixie," but - oh, never mind.

But, no question, the government is always using your automobile as a mode of transporting money out of your wallet. Tags, registration, titles, emissions testing, licenses, insurance renewals, fees for back parking tickets, toll booths, seat belt violations - wouldn't it be simpler for everyone involved if we could just pay one annual Automobile Extortion Payment to the government and save us all a lot of pointless running around?

Think about this. You don't register a toaster every two years to keep the warranty good. You don't register with Social Security every two years to make sure they haven't forgotten your number. If you vote, you needn't re-register.

No, everything else you register once, whether it's for the draft or for a Royal Doulton china pattern. Do you really think the government would have any interest whatsoever in slapping your license plate with more decals than a Sarasota motor home if there weren't any money in it? Hmph.

I'm not advocating taking fake-sticker liberties with the government. But you have to admit, it has sure taken some liberties with us.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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