Tipsters help the CHP nab those who don’t have California license plates but should

Q. Dear Honk: The California Highway Patrol has a website to report those with out-of-state license plates who should have California ones. I’m curious about what really happens with this data. Does the CHP have a team (of one?) investigating these reports? How successful are they in catching violators? What happens to the ones who are caught?

–  Jackson N. Henry, Torrance

A. Once, the effort that began in 2004 had a fun name: Californians Help Eliminate All The Evasive Registration Scofflaws – or CHEATERS.

Now it is called the California Highway Patrol Registration Enforcement and Guidance Program. …

Oh, sorry, Honk nodded off there for a bit – that is a snoozer of a name, eh?

Up in the CHP’s Sacramento headquarters, Officer Jerry Gammon oversees the program with the help of a civilian employee and three specially trained volunteers. Under state law, new California residents have 20 days to ditch the plates from their previous state and purchase California ones (The Golden State likes its money).

Tipsters can provide information on possible violators on a CHP web page, such as the license-plate number, the state of the plates, the make, the model and the location of the suspected vehicle. Google the program’s name to find that page; Honk isn’t putting it here because the URL is longer than a list of Honk’s admirers.

You can expose your boss or your neighbor without fear of the target finding out who provided the tip.

“We don’t even know who it came from,” Gammon said. “All of the reports come in through the website.”

The tips are forwarded to CHP officers throughout the state based on where the vehicle was spotted: About 70 officers throughout California, assisted by more volunteers, spend part of their time tracking down violators.

The plates are run through states’ databases, and various other databases are accessed to determine if the possible perp is indeed a California resident with out-of-state plates, motivated, perhaps, by saving money.

Have they gotten a California driver’s license? Registered to vote here? Got a traffic ticket with a listed local address?

Suspected violators are sent a letter and asked to fix the problem. A second letter asks a bit more forcibly for the vehicle’s owner to pay the piper or show there actually isn’t a violation. If those letters fail, they could get a citation and a notice to appear – in court.

Violators can get tagged with penalties and fees going back up to three years.

In 2022, Gammon told Honk, the CHP closed 28,809 cases. The same year, owners of 4,290 vehicles paid fees and penalties totaling $2,079,838.

Sometimes, a case is closed because of a lack of information, there were duplicate complaints, or a vehicle had an exemption – perhaps it was owned by a rental company or a service member in the U.S. military. Gammon said cases eventually get investigated, depending on officers’ time constraints.

The state does not have a similar program for expired tags on California plates, because those scofflaws are much easier to nab, either by a police officer pulling over the vehicle or by the Department of Motor Vehicles noticing the laggards in its database.

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Q. Does the DMV re-use sequences on temporary license plates, or does it issue a bunch of sequences to a dealer that uses up its allocation before requesting a new set of temporary plate numbers? The barcode on the temp plate – I tried to scan it on my phone and it didn’t work – do you know what information it contains? Also, kudos to the DMV during this busy holiday season: It issued our permanent plates right after Christmas and we used those temporary plates for only two weeks.

– Ray Villagracia, Lake Forest 

A. Honk reached out to Ronald Ongtoaboc, a DMV spokesman.

“The numbers are not reused and are replenished as needed to maintain an adequate supply,” he told Honk.

The DMV does make available certain plate numbers to the dealers. And that QR codes includes info on the vehicle.

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk

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