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I’ll start with the lesson that I learned: Always make sure your license plate matches your registration and insurance forms that you keep in your car and that these are the same as the information the DMV has in their database.
Here’s the story. I was driving home last night around 10:30pm on the road to Eldorado Canyon. I drive this road hundreds of times a year and have trouble staying at the speed limit, especially when it’s late, no one is out, and I’m in a mellow happy mood. I was listening to the XM Chill station (my favorite radio station) and reflecting on the day.
As occasionally happens, I noticed flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror. After the initial exclamation of “fuck” and a brief adrenaline rush, I slowed to a stop and pulled over to the side of the road. As I sat in my Range Rover, I pondered how excruciatingly bright the policeman’s floodlights were.
The policeman marched up to my car. As I’ve been through this drill before I handed him my drivers license, registration, and insurance form. He asked if I knew why he had pulled me over. I suppressed the sarcastic thought that immediately rolled through my head and said “I imagine I was going too fast.” He asked if I knew how fast I was going. I replied “I have no idea.” He asked me where I was going. I responded “home – I live about three miles from here.” He asked if there was anything he should know. I pondered this for a second and said, “No. I’m just heading home from dinner. I didn’t have anything to drink if that’s what you are asking.” (I hadn’t). He took this in stride and said “Just checking – I clocked you going 63 in a 45.” In an effort to be cute, cuddly, and charming, I replied “I have no excuse for that – I just wasn’t paying attention.”
He took my documents and went back to his car. Fifteen minutes later I was wondering what he was working on when he came out of his car and approached mine very purposefully. He asked, “Is this your car.” I responded, “Yes?” He said, “The license plate is registered to a 1990 Blue Ford Pickup truck. Do you own one of those?” My first response was going to be no, but then I realized we do own a 1990-ish Blue Ford Pickup truck that we use to plow our road (I never drive it because Amy doesn’t allow me to plow.) I explained this to the officer. He then asked, very directly, “Are you sure.”
At this point, I was really perplexed. I looked him directly in the eye (there hadn’t been much eye contact up to this point because the flashlight he was shining in my face was excessively bright) and said “Yes. I’d be happy to call my wife Amy who is at our house to confirm.” He noticeably relaxed and said, “Ok – let me tell you what’s going on.”
He started by explaining that in most situations at this point I’d be in the back of his police car handcuffed on my way to jail after having a gun drawn on me and told to get out of the car and put my hands on my head. He saw the shocked look on my face and told me not to worry – that he’d decided the car I was in wasn’t stolen based on the documentation and my answers to his questions. Apparently the license plate on my car was for a 1990 Blue Ford Pickup. And while the registration number for the Range Rover had a similar license plate, it was off by one letter. Luckily, both cars were registered to Amy (my wife) instead of me and my drivers license had the same address on it.
He said when he first brought up the DMV data, he almost arrested me since my “1990 Blue Ford Pickup” had turned into a “2007 Black Range Rover” which is a normal type of stolen car scenario. The only thing that stopped him from doing this was that he noticed my address was Eldorado Springs, which matched the small town in which he had pulled me over. Since this didn’t match the stolen car scenario, he dug deeper (hence the 15 minutes) and ultimately decided that I probably hadn’t stolen the car, but instead either had the wrong license plate on it or the DMV had made an error. Apparently I answered his questions consistently enough that he was comfortable that I wasn’t a car thief.
By this point he wanted to make sure he explained the problem clearly enough so he escorted me to his car and showed me the DMV record he had pulled up. I wasn’t processing much of what he was saying at this point since I was just happy to get whatever ticket he was going to give me. I also realized Amy was probably getting worried since I was now at least 30 minutes later than I said I would be so when I got back to my car I sent her a quick email.
A few minutes later my new friend the policeman came by with a ticket (yes – after all that – he gave me a ticket.) He was almost apologetic about the ticket at this point, but said he felt compelled to give it to me since I was speeding. Being in no mood to argue, I thanked him for the ticket and also thanked him for doing the extra bit of research that kept me out of jail.
Not surprisingly, it took me a while to fall asleep when I finally got home. This morning we are trying to figure out if it’s a license plate error or a DMV error (it appears to be a DMV error.) Hopefully I don’t have to visit a special part of hell to get this resolved.