I don't want to be the new fish!!
February 24, 2008 6:51 PM   Subscribe

My Drivers License is expired. So are my car's tags. A lot. How do I renew both without getting arrested on the spot?

I'm kinda freaking out here. I went through some moderately bad emotional shit right around when my license & tags were supposed to be renewed on 2007 and...I kinda didn't. I kept meaning to, but I didn't. Then time passed, and here we are. I realize this is a bad thing. I want to make it right, but I'm terrified of being arrested on the spot for either or both infractions. How do I get legal again without going to the pokey?

For the sake of info/argument: This is a southern state, beginning with the letter F. I am past the 4-month mark of expiry on both, which I learned last week changes having no license from "lil slap on the wrist" to "criminal" infraction (there does not seem to be a criminal offense related to expiry of tags, but you have to admit...driving around on expired tags is asking for trouble. Don't ask how I've gotten away with it this long, I sure don't know myself). I am fully insured on my vehicle. In my state, the renewal of licenses is handled from a different branch of government than the renewal of vehicle tags, which I always thought was pretty stupid until now...because at least this way there's some hope for me.

Yes, I know I'm an idiot.

posted by brain cloud to Law & Government (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get someone to give you a ride to the DMV. You don't get arrested for having an expired license for if you're not driving. Also, every state is different but here in Iowa you only get a ticket if you get caught driving with an expired license.
posted by delmoi at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2008

(Oh sorry, I didn't see that it was a big deal to drive with a way-expired license in FL. But just get someone to drive you to the DMV)
posted by delmoi at 6:54 PM on February 24, 2008

Ditto delmoi. You get the big penalty for (getting caught) driving with expired registration/licence. Stop driving until the paperwork is taken care of and you'll be okay.

You should take care of this ASAP, because there will be a point after which there's no renewing and you'll have to re-register from scratch (e.g. take the driver's licence test as though you never had before).
posted by winston at 7:00 PM on February 24, 2008

I'm not quite sure what winston's on about. I was in the exact same boat, and it was just as easy as catching a ride to the tax collector's office with my passport and my title, and picking up the tag and new DL (in Leon County, both can be done at one place, ymmv). Just don't get caught beforehand like I did. I spent some time in a holding cell for it.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:07 PM on February 24, 2008

I am fully insured on my vehicle.

Your policy covers you driving an unregistered vehicle without a licence? I doubt it.
posted by winston at 7:09 PM on February 24, 2008

I'm not quite sure what winston's on about.

I had a friend (not in FL) who let her driver's licence go over a year past the expiration date and was had to re-take the tests.
posted by winston at 7:11 PM on February 24, 2008

Response by poster: Your policy covers you driving an unregistered vehicle without a licence? I doubt it.

Well, the point being, It would be mighty damn difficult to re-register w/out insurance. I realize I'd be up shit's creek without a paddle in the event of an accident.
posted by brain cloud at 7:16 PM on February 24, 2008

As others have said, the infraction is for driving with an expired registration / expired license. (At least, everywhere I've been... I'm not familiar with Florida.)

But yes, stop driving now. At least in some places, it's a criminal (and arrestable) offense. As in, if you get pulled over, they'll end up towing and impounding your car, and you'll get taken to jail.

But that's only for driving that way. So just have someone with a current license drive a currently-registered car to the appropriate place, fill out your paperwork, and go from there.

I doubt they'll even ask, but if they do--no, you haven't driven since it expired, and your car certainly hasn't been driven on a public way since the expiration.
posted by fogster at 7:18 PM on February 24, 2008

Best answer: don't sweat it.
really. i won't even go into what i drove on and with here in FL, but email me if you would like to find out. :)
Catch a ride to the tax collectors office. Have a current, valid proof of insurance and they should let you renew right there. I think they have a late fee which you will need to pay, but you should be just fine.

Next, you would first try here to see if you are eligible to renew online. If you are, great. If not, then catch a ride to the DMV (i've driven there, no one notices) make sure you have your current license and a check or cash. Make an appointment beforehand. Go in. You may have to take another eye exam. In my case, I had to take a test on street signs because of a ticket I had received 5 years before. No big deal, you should be in and out in 20 minutes (with the appointment).

good luck. no one will put you in handcuffs. i promise. but the sooner the better.
posted by jessica at 7:26 PM on February 24, 2008

Your policy covers you driving an unregistered vehicle without a licence? I doubt it.

True, if brain cloud gets in an accident without a license, her insurance company will cancel her insurance and refuse to pay out. Until then, though, they're probably happy to collect her premiums. See? The worst-case scenario for the insurance company is that they get all her money and don't have to spend any when she gets caught. Insurance companies have no real incentive to make sure customers keep licenses & registrations valid (so most don't).

In fact, even the DMV clerks probably won't even care about the car being insured for all those months it wasn't legally drivable (if they even notice). Even parked cars can use theft insurance (which brain cloud should totally be ready to point out, if asked).

I shouldn't know this stuff. I hang out with too many scofflaws.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 8:00 PM on February 24, 2008

Best answer: I just renewed my license last month. It expired in May 2007. I don't remember why I didn't renew it on time. But the longer I put it off, the more embarrassed and afraid I was to go to the DMV, so I put it off more. I only renewed last month because I have to fly next month, and I need a valid ID for that.

I went to the DMV, smiled and said "I completely forgot to renew my license, I'm so sorry."

And that was it. The woman at the DMV didn't even blink.

So I guess the point is, it won't be as bad as you think it will be.
posted by Ruki at 8:09 PM on February 24, 2008

One time, I was showing my friends my license, and when I took it out, I realised it had expired!

So, I drove down to the department of transport (this was in queensland, australia), and asked the girl to renew. She didn't even blink and when I said "how do you know I didn't drive here?", she basically said "it's not our business to ask how you got here", despite the fact that I came alone and obviously hadn't walked there (it was miles from anywhere!).

The moral of my story is "don't stress", although in your case I would consider catching a ride, since a car with expired tags sitting in the DMV carpark might be asking for trouble! :)
posted by ranglin at 8:27 PM on February 24, 2008

I don't know about Florida, but I got stopped by a cop with a really expired license in California (I forgot about renewing it), and all I got was a fix-it ticket -- I had to get it renewed and show it to a police officer in the next few months for the fine to go away. I am not suggesting you drive with the license -- rather, I am stating that the renewing part shouldn't be a major deal.
posted by bsdfish at 8:39 PM on February 24, 2008

Best answer: You're not the only person in this boat... it happens all the time for various reasons.

First, divide up the tasks of getting your license and tag renewed.

I would tackle one at a time, perhaps on different days. You can try to take care of this stuff in one visit to the DMV, but I'm betting if you go in there and are all like, "I need to renew my license, and oh, by the way my tags are expired too," then this may cause some confusion. Sadly, I don't trust DMV workers to handle complex requests further than I can throw many of them.

For me, getting my license renewed last month was as simple as going to my state's DMV website, filling out an online form, and paying $12.50. They mailed me a new license. Of course, it has my photo from five years ago, so if you look dramatically different it could cause problems at places that check for ids. (Your state may not even do this, so don't get your hopes up.)

Your state will have it's own process for renewing tags.

Generally, and this is the important part, I find it better to provide as little information as possible to the people behind the counter. Don't go in there with some "story" - they don't care and frankly they probably won't believe that you've been jet-setting in Monaco the past six months and completely forgot about your tags and license. Or whatever.
posted by wfrgms at 8:39 PM on February 24, 2008

In fact it looks like your state may allow you to renew your license online. Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 8:42 PM on February 24, 2008

nthing don't stress...Just get to the various offices that you need to and get re-registered. A helpful hint is to call ahead and ask them what paperwork you need to bring with you. That way you minimize a repeat visit.
posted by mmascolino at 8:43 PM on February 24, 2008

Best answer: Believe me, the DMV will be more than happy to help you get your license and registration back in order. They see people like you all the time.

The DMV is also not in the enforcement business. It's counterproductive to go arresting people who show up trying to fix their paperwork, because you want people to show up to fix their paperwork. That said, in Illinois the state police work with the DMV and chase after people who (for instance) show up and fail their exams and then drive off. So you don't want to drive there unless you're going to get your plates updated.

Still, even tickets for driving on a suspended license will often be dropped by the traffic court if you show up with your paperwork newly in order. (This has happened to me.) Again, they want to have the right set of incentives.

I would relax and just resolve to get this fixed ASAP.
posted by dhartung at 12:55 AM on February 25, 2008

I'm with dhartung. Go into it as if you were traveling outside of the country for a while and came home and your documents had expired while you were gone. You're not going to be arrested by the DMV.

Get your driver's license, your registration and your credit/debit card. Get a glass of water. Sit down at your computer. Then go here and renew your registration right now. There, that's done. Your car is now legal. Then go back and renew your license. Can't do it online? Get a ride (hey, you can take your car, just need another drive) and go do it in person. Don't forget to take your old license.

This isn't a crisis, this isn't a problem. You can fix it easily. No need to freak out. Deep breaths.
posted by Dreama at 5:17 AM on February 25, 2008

If you can't reregister your license online, take a cab to the DMV. You won't be the first - even on that day.
posted by plinth at 5:46 AM on February 25, 2008

Also, in states I've lived, the longer you let your expired registration go, the greater the "penalty" for renewal, so the sooner the better.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:12 AM on February 25, 2008

In my state, you can sign a form that says your car was broken down for several months, thereby avoiding the cash penalties for expired registration. My state's very poor, so it's probably true in a lot of cases, but hasn't been any of the times I've filled out that form. I've not been arrested yet...
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:42 AM on February 25, 2008

Make sure to keep the receipts they give you for both renewals. You should be fine to start driving right away once you pay up, but you'll want to have a verification copy in your vehicle just in case something happens between when you renew and when you get your new ID/tabs/whatnot.
posted by baphomet at 11:00 AM on February 25, 2008

Dude, been there.

Time for you to enjoy the experience of public transit. Focus on your license first—that's the thing that'll get you arrested for serious. If you get asked when you're renewing it, just say that you hadn't been driving lately and hadn't thought about it. Or whatever. It's really none of their business—it's not illegal to be without a driver's license, just to drive without one.

Then get your plates up to date. That'll likely be more pricey, if Florida's like the states I've lived in with an expired license/registration. They usually charge you a fine, but frankly, for me, that fine was less than what got lopped off as prorating for the year's registration (which I didn't renew because I was fucking flat broke busted). Win win!

But do it before you get caught, because that certainly is a pain in the ass (speaking from experience).
posted by klangklangston at 12:41 PM on February 25, 2008

Oh, yeah, that's good advice from Baphomet there—in Michigan, I had to keep the notice that my license had been reinstated (don't drive on an expired license, kids!) officially for, what, two years, I think? It was kinda a pain in the ass, though I just stapled it to my regular license. Even worse, I had to get a new picture that made me look like a retard after years of having a pretty sweet (at least not terrible) photo.
posted by klangklangston at 12:43 PM on February 25, 2008

Response by poster: Hot update on how all this turned out:

OK, I got all of this taken care of a couple months ago, and everything went AWESOMELY. First, I took care of my tags. I said the car was in dead storage, signed a paper, and bing boom I had legal registration again, yay!! I walked the 6-mile round trip to get to the tax collector's office -- no public transpo in this town, sadly -- but it wasn't a big deal. The nice lady even took off all the extraneous late fees. And I had a nice walk to boot. Once I had the tags on my car I drove the bazillion miles to the driver's license place (26 miles! Not joking!), armed with new confidence that I can take care of ANYTHING. Walk in the door - computers are down. What?? I just drove a bazillion miles. I'm not going home without this taken care of. So I puttered around the extremely skeezy strip mall where the driver license place is located for about an hour. Went back in - computers back up!! March up to the counter praying to every god, entity, superhero I can think of that this will go alright. Request that I renew my license. Clerk taps stuff into a computer. Hrmms and makes a face. My heart sinks, I'm thinking it's off to jail for me in about twelve seconds. She asks, "You want to renew?" I say, my voice dripping with hope, "Yes, is that alright?" She replies, "You're good until 2010, you can't renew for another eighteen months."

WTF? All that stress for nothing??!?! I'm so fucking stupid.

I guess it auto-renewed when I changed my address with the DMV a few years ago, I don't know how else it happened. Because I will swear to anybody who asks me that I don't ever remember renewing my license. But, whatever, everything is cool. But I got myself a shiny new $10 reprint of my license for my trouble, with the right renew date on it.

YAY! So, thanks to all who responded with their words of wisdom and encouragement. It was the extra push I needed to get this done.
posted by brain cloud at 5:16 PM on May 3, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, PS: There were undercover cops at both the tag registration and drivers license places, waiting to nab anybody who might have driven away in a less-than-legal way. So, my nervousness was somewhat grounded in reality, but since I walked out of both places right with the law, I didn't get any hassle.
posted by brain cloud at 5:19 PM on May 3, 2008

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