Expired Tags, Buying a House, and the Colorado DMV

I learned a couple things in the last three days and figured I would share them, in the hopes that I can save you $56 and some heart ache.

In November, Melissa and I moved to our new house from our apartment. This was momentous, because it is the largest thing that either of us have either bought or had our names on, let alone together.  As well, we decided to buy a “fixer upper”, which meant that we spent almost 1.5-2x our down payment on replacing carpets, painting walls, painting the kitchen, putting in wood floors, and refinishing all 2.5 bathrooms.  Needless to say, we were distracted during this whole process and got a huge breath of fresh air when we finally had our open house and could relax and say “we are done..almost”.   One thing I learned immediately after buying the house was that everyone waits until you’ve signed to tell you, “It never ends, be prepared for a life of fixing your house”.

Of course we changed our address so that all our mail would get to our new house, this was easy now that USPS has an online change of address form.   Then, being diligent Colorado citizens who knew we would not move for some time, we immediately went to the DMV and got our Driver’s Licenses switched to our new address.  Also since it was Movember, it was the perfect time for me to get my new DL picture. We thought, “For sure, this will be what we need to do to tell the state that we moved”.  As well as this, my company Spotted Koi has been doing almost double the amount of work that we did over the last year and Tony and I have been scrambling to keep up, make enough money to take money out, and start a couple side projects all at the same time.

Fast forward from November to Friday February 4th, 2011.

I am driving to pick up a friend and head to PodCamp in Boulder. As I change lanes to get off I-70, I pass in front of a cop.  For the past 8 years, I have had one interaction with a cop pulling me over and he gave me a warning, then gave me crap about my Mizzou license plate cover. So, I have not even thought about cops for at least 5 of those years, because I have been doing nothing wrong and had no need.  The officer starts to follow me, I think, “That’s weird, oh well”.  I get off the highway and then the lights come on.  I pull over to get out of the way and sure enough, the disco light show was for me.

The officer walks up to my car and being confused and a feeling a little inquisitive as to what I could have possibly done wrong say, “What’s going on?”  I get the typical, “License, Insurance, and Registration”.  I give him my license and my insurance, registration I tell him is in my safety deposit box because someone broke into my car and I am super paranoid now.  He tells me that I have expired tags and takes my info back to his cruiser to check the system for any nefarious deeds that he can find on me (none) and to write me a ticket.

When he comes back and gives me a ticket I ask two things: “Isn’t the county supposed to send me something in the mail?” and “I have to go to Boulder, is that going to be OK?”.  To the first question he replies, “I can testify that sometimes they just don’t send them out”. In my head I think, “Shit.” To the second question he says, “Just hope you don’t get pulled over and if you do, show the officer your ticket and hope you don’t get another one”. Again I thought, “Shit”.

Lesson 1: The law does not care about how busy you are in your life. You are supposed to be responsible for your own stuff.

Fast forward again to Monday February 7th at 7:00am, at the Arapahoe County DMV.  I am there first thing in the morning, because I refuse to get another ticket ($56 one time was enough of a lesson for me).  And, I don’t have time to go to the DMV after 9am, because I will be back to scrambling to stay on top of everything required of me at Spotted Koi.  I am number 2 to sit down at a desk.  First thing I ask is, “Shouldn’t I get this in the mail? I changed my address on my DL.”

Lesson 2: The Driver’s License system and the License Plate system are separate. They do not share databases. You have to change your address in both places.

Lesson 3: Government mail is not forwarded. So, change of address forms do not matter with government. You have to tell them manually.

All of my lessons came from conversation I had with the guy, who was pretty nice.  Although, he was so methodical and even toned that could have been a robot.

So, my lessons learned cost me $56, some heartache and some lost sleep.  Don’t let it happen to you!

Tips to avoid these problems:

  1. Set a calendar reminder for the first day of your license plate expiration month.
  2. Set another calender reminder to actually go to the DMV around the 15th (beginning and end of the month are the busiest times)
  3. Immediate after moving, put in your change of address with:
    1. The USPS
    2. The DL bureau
    3. The Automobile Licensing Bureau
  4. Don’t ever change lanes in front of a cop, even if you have no reason to be scared of them

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