FERGUSON, Mo. – Ferguson police were pulling drivers over for expired temporary license tags in the town’s first-ever “Temp Tag Tuesday.” Police are cracking down on people driving with temporary tags that have expired for months, even years.
There’s hope that a new Missouri law will be a game-changer when it comes to the temporary tag abuse that’s been plaguing the St. Louis area for years.
In the span of about an hour in Ferguson alone Tuesday, FOX 2 cameras saw nearly a dozen cars with tags expired by more than a month, more than a year, more than two years, and with no tags at all. Police had pulled over nearly a dozen drivers for temporary tag violations by early afternoon.
“The efforts are not going to stop any other day of the week; it’s just that Tuesdays it’s something we’re going to focus on,” said Sgt. Jill Gronewald for the Ferguson Police Department. “It is a pretty prevalent violation that we see.”
She stressed that the goal was not to write tickets but to address the issue, noting that a number of warnings were being issued. Officers were taking into account things like financial hardship.
“Blatantly disregarding the law is not acceptable (but) there are sometimes situations where … you know … ‘life’ arises,” Gronewald said. “We’re not inflicting any kind of financial burden on anybody at all, but we are here to enforce the law, as well.”
Missouri’s new Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility law recently passed by the legislature is supposed to make temporary tag abuse a thing of the past. It will require auto dealers “to collect and remit sales taxes” upon selling a vehicle. It means you pay the taxes when you buy the car. Now, in Missouri, you get a vehicle and temporary tags without having to pay sales taxes up front, which are roughly $1,600 for a $20,000 vehicle. You only pay the taxes when you go to the Department of Revenue for actual license plates.
The law proponents stated there will no longer be any point in driving with expired temporary tags if you’ve already paid sales taxes when you bought the car.
“The final look will be: you’ll pay the sales tax at the dealership. They’ll issue a temp tag that’s 10–15 days. That will automatically trigger the Department of Revenue to mail you your license plates,” said State Rep. Michael O’Donnell, a Republican representing south St. Louis County. “This is kind of the final step in ending the issuance of those temp tags.”
Car buyers could more easily roll the taxes into the vehicle’s financing, typically meaning an extra $20-$30 a month in a car payment, as opposed to paying hefty lump-sum tax bills or driving with expired temporary tags.
“It can’t possibly feel good to drive around knowing, ‘I haven’t gotten this taken care of,'” Gronewald said.
“It’s a lot easier to come up with $30 a month than it is $2,000 in one shot,” O’Donnell said.“I would say by this time next year, we’ll probably start to see auto dealers collecting the sales tax.”
He said Missouri would become one of more than 40 states to handle things this way. The governor was expected to sign the law soon, O’Donnell said. It will take effect in late August.
According to the police, vehicles used for reckless driving and other crimes often have expired and/or stolen temporary tags, stolen plates, or no tags at all.