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Deputies crack down on violators of plate law

October 16, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

She was in a Honda, with three small children inside, Illinois license plates on the front and back of the car and a tight smile on her face.

When deputies made her stop and asked about her out-of-state plates, the woman quickly started down the list: We've only lived here a few months. We're renting and still own a house in Illinois. And later, after a ticket was imminent: This is harassment.

Deputies with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department hear all kinds of excuses from people who move to the state and do not obtain a West Virginia license plate.

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Citing taxes, residents who have proper plates complain and demand that police do something.

From 5 to 9 a.m. Wednesday, several deputies operated a checkpoint at the entrance to Laurel Ridge, a large housing development off W.Va. 9 in Hedgesville.

They stopped cars leaving the subdivision and asked to see each driver's registration, license and insurance card. Most of the 100 to 120 drivers stopped quickly were allowed to leave, Lt. Dennis Streets said.

Some, though, were not. Deputies issued 11 citations and two written warnings.

One woman yelled at Streets and said he was going to make her miss the commuter train. She had a West Virginia license plate, but no inspection sticker, Streets said. She said something about a reciprocal agreement with Utah regarding an inspection and police allowed her to leave.

She returned with curt words later to let the deputies know she had, indeed, missed the train.

After moving to the state, people have 30 days to switch their tags and 60 days to get an in-state driver's license, Streets said.

"They should know the law when they move here," Streets said. However, because Streets and other deputies realize some people honestly may not know what to do or have problems obtaining a license, certain drivers were given warnings rather than citations.

Others tried to talk their way out of tickets. They claimed they were visiting or said the car belonged to a relative who lives in another state.

Some told the deputies to go catch "real criminals."

Streets usually responds by saying that is what he is doing. No crime should be ignored, he said, "especially when it's hurting the state pocketbook."

Some drivers spotted the deputies and quickly did a U-turn. Someone leaving the subdivision in a white Jeep Wrangler stopped about a block away from the police. The driver waited a few seconds before quickly turning around. A few others did the same.

Because deputies cannot always commit several hours to a checkpoint, they'll occasionally leave a friendly reminder on cars with out-of-state tags. So far this year, 255 of those cards have been distributed, Streets said. Excluding the checkpoint, deputies have written 20 tickets this year for out-of-state tags.

Of those who receive citations, some can have the charge dismissed if they properly register their cars within a certain time period, Streets said. He could not, however, make any guarantees.

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