Help me return to legality!
June 29, 2014 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I like to think of myself as a law-abiding citizen, and in pretty much all areas of my life I have been, save this. I believe I've twice illegally renewed my vehicle registration because I am not a legal resident of the state where I registered. How do I fix this without facing stiff legal penalties?

In 2011 I joined the military and was stationed in a different state than my home state, the latter of which contained my home of record. During this time, I was also a legal resident of my home state. In late 2012, I changed my state of legal residence to the state in which I was stationed because my home state had an income tax while my duty station state did not, and during my military service I only resided in my home state while on leave (one month per year). In 2013 while on leave I purchased a car and registered it in my home state, and at this point I was no longer a legal resident of my home state, so that was probably illegal. I've also renewed my registration twice since then.

The registration renewal agreement states the following: "I hereby affirm and certify that I am a resident/have a bona fide place of business in this county, am an owner of and have in effect financial security for the above vehicle as required by law, have disclosed/verified any/all liens for, am entitled to the license plate issued, and that the information listed on this application is true and correct. FALSE CERTIFICATION CAN RESULT IN CRIMINAL PROSECUTION UNDER PENALTY OF LAW." [emphasis in the original]

Under the previous paragraph lies a signature block, which I have signed in two instances while no longer being a legal resident of the state. I believe this constitutes false certification, because I am not technically a legal resident of my home state, though I do live here again now.

I recently completed my military contract and have returned to my home state, having no plans to continue living in the state where I had been stationed but was still a legal resident. I would like to re-apply for legal residence in my home state, but I fear that this will alert them to my legal violations.

Optimally, I would like to become a legal resident of my home state once again without facing any legal penalties. As far as I am aware I am the only one who is aware of the issue, which makes me think that my home state has simply failed to detect the violation. Still, this is stressful to me, because I often find myself wondering if/when I will be detected and all the resulting complications.

I'd like to make clear that I am the one at fault here. I am not attempting to excuse my violation--I simply wish to resolve it. So I ask you, denizens of MetaFilter, what is your recommended course of action for me? I would really appreciate some advice on this matter.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you're over-thinking this, probably.

As far as I know, in any state I've ever lived in (this might vary for you), there's no application or form you fill out to become a legal resident. You just start being one when you move there (there might be some other stipulations, but they're typically passive, not active).

Just fill out your registration and then go update your drivers license. Unless I'm missing something (or your state is unusual about this) this should pretty much do it.
posted by toomuchpete at 2:40 PM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just a heads up, the state you're in does come up when one searches for the language you quote from the registration renewal agreement, so if you don't want the state your vehicle's registered in (and that you have moved back to) to be able to be traced in any way, you might ask the mods to alter that part of your question.

But in any case, I don't think you have to "reapply" for legal residence in that state, so there's really no issue. All you have to do is live there, and when the time comes to renew your driver's license, switch it to that state. Update your voter registration to there. When it comes time to pay taxes, pay them there. That's all there is to it.

I don't usually refer people to Yahoo! Answers, but there is a pretty good rundown of this in answer to someone's Yahoo! Answers question "How can I become a permanent resident of ___," where ___ is your state.
posted by limeonaire at 2:43 PM on June 29, 2014

I think you are vastly overestimating the interest that anybody has in catching you (assuming you even did commit an offense) and the severity of the consequences you would face, but why not have a quick consultation with a traffic lawyer if you're concerned? I doubt it would be very expensive to get advice on how to proceed on something like this and what your actual risks are.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:48 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your home of record (where you enlisted) remains your home of record for your entire military career. There's no harm, no foul there. Your problem is that you didn't pay state income tax for a period, and apparently not a long period. Talk to a tax accountant and find out what your tax liabilities are and take care of them.

You registering your car, paying sales tax, and keeping your registration current are proof enough that you didn't set out to defraud your home of record. If you were deployed during the enlistment, you may not even owe state income tax. Again, talk to a tax accountant first.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:49 PM on June 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

One other thing; whether you intend to use their services or not, be sure to register with the State Employment Office at your earliest convenience. These are funded by the US government with the priority of helping returning veterans get jobs when they come home, and your sign up keeps those dollars flowing. It's a good thing.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:58 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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