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Ferguson test-drive ticket has man claiming, “money grab”

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FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) - In Ferguson, a man is up in arms after receiving a ticket for an unregistered vehicle on a car he was test-driving.

Florissant resident Mike Wensel was hunting for a car with a powerful engine. He found a 1975 Regal on Craiglist, almost identical to the one he owned as a teen. It was too good to be true.

He and his brother drove to Ferguson on a Saturday afternoon, to meet the owner of the car, “Big Mike”, for a quick test drive. Wensel says, “The plates weren’t expired. And I asked Big Mike, is this car good? He said yeah, yeah it’s good. No it wasn’t.”

When they hopped in the Regal, they didn’t get too far. “We probably didn’t go four blocks before we were pulled over. It ended up being about three more police cars that showed up,” says Wensel.

The officer wrote Wensel a ticket because the Regal wasn’t registered. Wensel politely protested: “I was like, there’s a ‘for sale’ sign right on the dashboard. I’m test driving this car. He goes, ‘You’re the captain of this ship, so you get the ticket.’”

The officer said Wensel was lucky; if the tags had come back stolen, Wensel would have gone to jail. Plus, he said he could have written Wensel additional tickets for lack of insurance, a broken side mirror, and lack of rear-view mirror.

Wensel was mad, but went to court Thursday night, thinking it would all get taken care of. But all he got was a discount on the fine. “I felt like it should’ve been thrown out,” he says, “It’s cut and dry.”

To Wensel, this traffic ticket seems like a money grab. It’s a familiar accusation; in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, many complaints surfaced about Ferguson’s municipal court practices, and the large amount of revenue court fines bring in. Since last summer, the city has promised reform, but Wensel sees the status quo: “To me, it’s business as usual with them. They need the money.”

The city of Ferguson released the following statement, regarding the ticket Wensel received:

Mr. Wensel appeared in court and stated that he was driving the vehicle in question; the records of the Missouri Department of Revenue confirmed that the vehicle was not properly registered. Mr. Wensel pled guilty to “Failure to Register”, a non-moving violation; a total of $52.00 (which consists of a fine and court costs) was assessed. Given that the Feb 19 court date was Mr. Wensel’s first court appearance, the case was not set for trial. If Mr. Wensel had requested a trial, it would have been scheduled on a different date and the City and Mr. Wensel would have presented evidence at that point.​