This might be a little drawn out. I was pulled over for "Attached Tag not assigned"
I explained to the officer that I had been pulled over the previous day (a Saturday) and received a verbal warning to have the issue fixed as I myself had no idea the tag was incorrect. He had told be to take it to a tag office to sort it out ASAP now. Fast forward to the new pull over the next day and explaining this to him he does not believe my story. Stating all pull overs are taken into a database. But this happened in a county over and was only a verbal warning, so nothing was handed to me so how would he know?
Regardless, he stated he did not believe me and that I was just a guy who had no money to afford the tag. Next he had be out of the car and in cuffs. Proceeded to put me in his car and then talk out side with is buddy for 5-8min. Then took me out and said to sign a paper for court or he would arrest me now (stating to be giving me an option as this was my first offence) in shock I quickly signed. My court date is tomorrow and I need to get out of this fine of roughly $400.
I had no idea the tag was incorrect and fixed it 4 days after he pulled me over. Does he have to prove I 'knew it was wrong' or am I up creek without a paddle here...
2 Answers from Attorneys
By explaining to the officer that you knew because you were warned the day before, then that is how they prove you "knew it was wrong." The officer had every right to arrest you, put you in cuffs, put you in his car, and sign the paper. In other words, every thing he did was appropriate. Just because you didn't have the money is not a defense. The judge will say, "Don't drive until you get the money to fix your tag." It's irrelevant whether or not the officer believed you about the warning as it has nothing to do with what happened on the day you were stopped. Nothing from the verbal warning the day before affects the decision to charge you the next day. That all said, you did the right thing by getting your tag fixed as soon as you could. Furthermore, you could still fight it with an attorney experienced in these matters so you should consider hiring at attorney to assist you with this.
There are some things a driver of a car is responsible for before he turns on the key. Equipment violations, up to date legal registration, proper insurance, etc. Proof of knowledge of an incorrect/expired tag is not required. You were driving, the tag was incorrect, so the offense was complete. The fact that you had received a warning and continued to drive the vehicle without correcting the situation actually aggravates the situation and does not help you.
That being said, most judges consider steps taken to correct such situations and will minimize the penalty or in some cases dismiss the charge because you are now in compliance. As a former prosecutor I know our goal was more to achieve compliance rather than impose a penalty. Bring proof of your compliance to court and explain to the judge why you were not in compliance, be properly regretful and assure the court you understand the importance of compliance and it will not happen again. Assuming you have an otherwise clean record, chances are good the penalty may be minimized. All of the above assumes you have an otherwise good history. A history of not complying with traffic laws makes it difficult for the judge to either believe or feel sorry for you.
If you are not comfortable in talking to the court yourself, find an attorney experienced in such matters to represent you.
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