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Old 09-15-2015, 11:28 AM
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Fuck you, Maryland MVA

I got an alarmed phone call from my mom last week. She received a dunning letter from what appeared to be a collection agency (and I suppose it technically is, but it's an official arm of the Maryland state government). The letter tells her that she has an outstanding fine of close to $4000, and that her state tax returns may be intercepted and further collection action taken if she doesn't pay up within fifteen (15) days.

The fine is for a lapse in car insurance, which is a fine-able offense in Maryland just the same as it is anywhere else. No problem there; that's a sensible law. The problems are these:

1) The lapse period is July 1999 to October 2000. Really? Fifteen fucking years ago?
2) Oh, and Mom left Maryland in September 1998, and has not owned, registered, or operated a vehicle on Maryland roads since. In fact, the collection letter arrived at the Houston address she has maintained for all of that time.
3) The letter doesn't even say what the car or license plate number is, or how they determined the vehicle was being operated without insurance during that time period, thus making it really difficult to research the validity of this decade-and-a-half-old fine.
4) While it grudgingly admits you can dispute the fine, the letter tries its absolute hardest to hide from you exactly how or with whom you may do so. Since the letter is from a "collection agency," you can't take it up with them directly - they make it abundantly clear that their phone number, address, and website are strictly for making payments or payment arrangements.

Mom's a smart and level-headed woman, but legalese can be daunting even to those of us who aren't Vietnamese and in our sixties, as she is. So she called me all panicky, and I'm preparing for what will likely be a long and unpleasant set of phone calls to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. I'm expecting one phone call to figure out what car it was, some research on my end, then another call to inform them of the month and year the car was registered and insured in Texas. With hold times and unhelpful bureaucrats to account for, I'm expecting it to take my whole morning.

So fuck you, Maryland MVA. Fuck you for this misguided pledge drive. Fuck you for sending my Mom a threatening letter over a fifteen year old ILLEGITIMATE fine and telling her she has fifteen days to pay it or else. Fuck you for making ME do the legwork to tell YOU that you have the wrong information. Urg.
Old 09-15-2015, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
The fine is for a lapse in car insurance, which is a fine-able offense in Maryland just the same as it is anywhere else.
What?!?!?!?
Old 09-15-2015, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
the letter is from a "collection agency,"
There's the issue right there. I'm willing to bet my last donut this letter has nothing at all to do with the MVA at all. In my experience it's more likely a predatory collection agency scammer, possibly having purchased a legitimate (but long-expired) debt for less than pennies on the dollar, hoping to score money they aren't actually entitled to.
Old 09-15-2015, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Typo Negative View Post
What?!?!?!?
I may be wrong about that, but I was under the impression that operating a motor vehicle on public roads without liability insurance was against the law anywhere in the U.S.
Old 09-15-2015, 11:55 AM
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Did she return her plates when she moved?
Old 09-15-2015, 11:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
I may be wrong about that, but I was under the impression that operating a motor vehicle on public roads without liability insurance was against the law anywhere in the U.S.
For the most part yes. I think there are a couple of exceptions. I think the issue is that $4000 is not a reasonable fine and probably not the correct amount anywhere.

ETA: NJ is one of the tougher states on insurance for several reasons and the fine for a 1st offense is no less than $300 and no more than $1000. But that is for driving a vehicle without insurance. No one is going to cite you for not having insurance on a car not being driven.

Last edited by Loach; 09-15-2015 at 12:01 PM.
Old 09-15-2015, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
Did she return her plates when she moved?
That's my first thought. I suspect the time period covers the period between the end of her Maryland insurance policy and the end of her Maryland registration. I'll assume that during that period she was covered by her Texas insurance under her Texas registration.

That doesn't explain why it took 15 years for them to catch up with her. As with other posters, I'm dubious that this collection agency is actually a state office.
Old 09-15-2015, 12:03 PM
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This sounds like a scam from 2013.
Old 09-15-2015, 12:05 PM
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Here's another.
Old 09-15-2015, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by andros View Post
There's the issue right there. I'm willing to bet my last donut this letter has nothing at all to do with the MVA at all. In my experience it's more likely a predatory collection agency scammer, possibly having purchased a legitimate (but long-expired) debt for less than pennies on the dollar, hoping to score money they aren't actually entitled to.
That's the crazy bit: it isn't some shifty third-party collection agency that bought up state debts. It's actually a department of the state government. So all they really bring to the table here is an intervening level of bureaucracy that makes it more difficult for me to research and dispute the fine.

If it were my own 16-year old bullshit fine, I'd tell them to pound sand and feel free to chase me for it. But it's my mom, and she's worried, so I get to try and fix it.
Old 09-15-2015, 12:11 PM
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I'm not in Maryland but I just looked it up. It is not a fine. It is a fee. Big difference. There is a fee from MVA that says they will charge $150 for the first 30 days and $7 a day after that for uninsured cars. That is a fee and not a fine so the worst they could do is suspend her license until it is paid. She may have been driving with a suspended MD license this whole time after she left.

http://mva.maryland.gov/vehicles.../uninsured.htm

Last edited by Loach; 09-15-2015 at 12:12 PM.
Old 09-15-2015, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
Did she return her plates when she moved?
I'm sure she didn't. I imagine she registered her car when she got to Texas, and the old Maryland plates sat in her garage for a decade before being tossed out in a spring cleaning.

Last edited by OneCentStamp; 09-15-2015 at 12:12 PM.
Old 09-15-2015, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
No one is going to cite you for not having insurance on a car not being driven.
What do you mean "not being driven"? I've had cars registered in MD. There's a proof of insurance form you may have to file documenting coverage while the plates and registration are valid. The car could be up on blocks, but it needs to be covered until the plates are returned and the registration is canceled/transferred.

Last edited by dasmoocher; 09-15-2015 at 12:17 PM.
Old 09-15-2015, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
That's the crazy bit: it isn't some shifty third-party collection agency that bought up state debts. It's actually a department of the state government. So all they really bring to the table here is an intervening level of bureaucracy that makes it more difficult for me to research and dispute the fine.

If it were my own 16-year old bullshit fine, I'd tell them to pound sand and feel free to chase me for it. But it's my mom, and she's worried, so I get to try and fix it.
Cheesus. You are on the side of the angels; go forth and conquer.
Old 09-15-2015, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
I'm sure she didn't. I imagine she registered her car when she got to Texas, and the old Maryland plates sat in her garage for a decade before being tossed out in a spring cleaning.
That might be part of the problem, if she didn't return the tags. I've lived in Maryland all my life and have dealt with the MVA enough to have problems with them. Maryland WANTS their tags back, doesn't matter what happens to them, you lose them and they give you problems, or at least to me they did.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dasmoocher View Post
What do you mean "not being driven"? I've had cars registered in MD. There's a proof of insurance form you may have to file documenting coverage while the plates and registration are valid. The car could be up on blocks, but it needs to be covered until the plates are returned and the registration is canceled/transferred.
Yep, in Maryland if you have valid tags on the car, no matter what you have to have insurance. They will contact you right away if they find out you've canceled the insurance and demand you have proof of returned tags or the fines start.

This is what's happened to me. I bought a motorcycle with my ex-wife. Because she didn't take my last name when it came time to take her name off the title the MVA refused to do it, even with a divorce decree, because I couldn't prove we were married so I would have to pay a few hundred bucks. I just left her name on the title since when it would come time to sell it she had already signed the title.

When I did go to sell the bike to a shop, they didn't turn the plates in that day, as it was a Saturday, and my insurance switched between the old bike and the new one. A couple of days later I got a letter stating I needed to pay the fine for not having insurance. I called my insurance agent and they said that I was fine since I hadn't canceled the insurance they would send in the proper paperwork. I got another letter about six months later and the agent took care of it then too.

I'd say screw it, especially if she's not going back to Maryland to live. Otherwise her agent in Maryland might still have records.
Old 09-15-2015, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
I'm sure she didn't. I imagine she registered her car when she got to Texas, and the old Maryland plates sat in her garage for a decade before being tossed out in a spring cleaning.
Well there's your problem.

She needs to contact the MVA, not the Central Collection Unit (CCU). The CCU is a legit department of the Maryland State government to collect on debts owed the State of Maryland from all departments, one of which is the MVA. They have no power to do anything but collect money (and send threatening letters).

The MVA will tell her what they need but I'm guessing she will need to provide the MVA a copy of her Texas registration and proof that the vehicle was insured during that time. She may need to get this from her insurance company.

In fact, have her call the insurance company first, and they may be able to handle this in entirety on her behalf.
Old 09-15-2015, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dasmoocher View Post
What do you mean "not being driven"? I've had cars registered in MD. There's a proof of insurance form you may have to file documenting coverage while the plates and registration are valid. The car could be up on blocks, but it needs to be covered until the plates are returned and the registration is canceled/transferred.
Yeah that's what I found out when I looked deeper (see my post two above yours). It does appear that these are MVA levied fees rather than court ordered fines.
Old 09-15-2015, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
Yeah that's what I found out when I looked deeper (see my post two above yours). It does appear that these are MVA levied fees rather than court ordered fines.
Yeah, I think we overlapped with posting/composing in reply to a thread time.

That said: I just moved back to MD and now have to deal with the MVA.

Oh! Joy!
Old 09-15-2015, 10:48 PM
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Isn't there some kind of statute of limitations on this kind of crap?
Old 09-16-2015, 12:13 AM
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There is no statute of limitations for debts to government agencies, nor can they be discharged via bankruptcy.
Old 09-16-2015, 12:44 AM
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Maryland is known for this and has been for a long time. They particularly love to nail people who make the mistake of canceling their insurance before they return the plates. The insurance company notifies the MVA when the policy lapses, they check to see what date the plates were returned (if they were at all) and BAM, they get you for a few hundred bucks. When I moved back to Maryland from California, I spent hours anxiously scouring the CA DMV site for whatever I was missing because as a MD native, I simply couldn't understand or believe that California didn't seem to care about getting the plates back.

I think you're going to need to furnish actual documentation, not just tell them dates over the phone. I also think they may refuse to speak to you and tell you your mother has to be the one to call, since it's her name on the notice. Good luck. My own mother has been dealing with a flag on her Maryland registration due to someone else's unpaid parking ticket somehow getting attached to her license plate number and causing a mess every time she tries to renew the registration. Every 2 years she convinces them it's a mistake and they let her renew, only for it to pop back up again 2 years later.
Old 09-16-2015, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
The MVA will tell her what they need but I'm guessing she will need to provide the MVA a copy of her Texas registration and proof that the vehicle was insured during that time. She may need to get this from her insurance company.
Proof of insurance and registration from 15 years ago? I can't even remember who my last insurer was before my current one (in my head, I've narrowed it down to GEICO, Liberty Mutual, or State Farm). What do they expect, for you to file your expired insurance and registration cards in a notebook 'just in case'.

Sounds like someone was working dead files and did a LexisNexis search and found a current address (as any old notices would likely have gone to the wrong address). But any requests for that kind of record keeping 15 years after the fact would be utterly ridiculous (which isn't to say a MVA drone won't ask for them because that's simply what his/her form says you need).
Old 09-16-2015, 12:16 PM
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There is no statute of limitations for debts to government agencies, nor can they be discharged via bankruptcy.
Not strictly true. I mean, I don't know about state agencies, but you CAN discharge some income tax debt via bankruptcy:

http://nolo.com/legal-encycloped...ing-29550.html

One might make the argument in court that if Maryland had been more diligent in pursuing this crap, there would have been about 13 fewer years of fees / interest / penalties tacked onto the whole mess - and anything beyond the first year or so should be written off.
Old 09-16-2015, 12:26 PM
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Wait they want you to give them back the PLATES?
Revenue generation is bullshit in each and every one of its forms. This is absurd.
Old 09-16-2015, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
Proof of insurance and registration from 15 years ago? I can't even remember who my last insurer was before my current one (in my head, I've narrowed it down to GEICO, Liberty Mutual, or State Farm). What do they expect, for you to file your expired insurance and registration cards in a notebook 'just in case'.

Sounds like someone was working dead files and did a LexisNexis search and found a current address (as any old notices would likely have gone to the wrong address). But any requests for that kind of record keeping 15 years after the fact would be utterly ridiculous (which isn't to say a MVA drone won't ask for them because that's simply what his/her form says you need).
This is the part that's been leaping out at me from these anecdotes. I wonder if the state isn't counting on a substantial portion of their population being military (and therefore transient), and having a policy of letting cases sit open for several years before trying to track someone down and get them to pay fees that have had a LONG time to accrue.
Old 09-16-2015, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
Not strictly true. I mean, I don't know about state agencies, but you CAN discharge some income tax debt via bankruptcy:

http://nolo.com/legal-encycloped...ing-29550.html

One might make the argument in court that if Maryland had been more diligent in pursuing this crap, there would have been about 13 fewer years of fees / interest / penalties tacked onto the whole mess - and anything beyond the first year or so should be written off.
True. Allow me to revise:

The State of Maryland and its agencies are not subject to statutes of limitations, and this is not an income tax debt, so it cannot be discharged via bankruptcy.

And it's not 13 years of fees and interest, that would be well over $33,000. The penalty in this case is $150 for the first month and $7 a day from July 1999 to October 2000, which is 456 days times 7 plus 150 which is $3,342. Granted that's well shy of the $4000 from the OP, but given the information available that's the number we have.



.

Last edited by DCnDC; 09-16-2015 at 01:02 PM.
Old 09-16-2015, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Critical1 View Post
Wait they want you to give them back the PLATES?
In DC, there used to be a whole big to-do about how people owned the plates, they do not stay with the car. If you disposed of your car, you HAD to return the plates to the DMV otherwise something would get screwed up.

Fortunately, the DC DMV had some sense knocked into its head and now has much more rational policies regarding plates. Apparently this bit of common sense hasn't hit Maryland. It's crazy.
Old 09-16-2015, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
And it's not 13 years of fees and interest, that would be well over $33,000. The penalty in this case is $150 for the first month and $7 a day from July 1999 to October 2000, which is 456 days times 7 plus 150 which is $3,342. Granted that's well shy of the $4000 from the OP, but given the information available that's the number we have.
Yep, the exact number is $3775.59, but they mention that they reserve the right to tack on collection fees, so I assume that's what accounts for the few extra hundred.
Old 09-16-2015, 09:27 PM
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If I recall correctly, Massachusetts has a similar system. But there, you get your plates from your insurance company directly. And you cannot cancel your insurance until you give the plates back.
Old 09-16-2015, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
I'm not in Maryland but I just looked it up. It is not a fine. It is a fee. Big difference. There is a fee from MVA that says they will charge $150 for the first 30 days and $7 a day after that for uninsured cars. That is a fee and not a fine so the worst they could do is suspend her license until it is paid. She may have been driving with a suspended MD license this whole time after she left.

http://mva.maryland.gov/vehicles.../uninsured.htm
What the........so they charge you a fee without even having to prove you broke a law by driving the car?! What if it was totaled, or something broke and it was up on bricks in a yard, or scrapped, or a million other ways a car can be not being driven.

Thats crazy, I know in Texas my parents scrapped cars.
Old 09-16-2015, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by OneCentStamp View Post
I may be wrong about that, but I was under the impression that operating a motor vehicle on public roads without liability insurance was against the law anywhere in the U.S.
Apparently not in New Hampshire, which I just discovered by watching Judge Judy this week.
Old 09-16-2015, 10:54 PM
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Last edited by Honey; 09-16-2015 at 10:54 PM.
Old 09-16-2015, 11:03 PM
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What the........so they charge you a fee without even having to prove you broke a law by driving the car?! What if it was totaled, or something broke and it was up on bricks in a yard, or scrapped, or a million other ways a car can be not being driven.

Thats crazy, I know in Texas my parents scrapped cars.
In NY, there is a specific process for taking a titled car and declaring it scrap. So if the vehicle is salvage, you have to inform the DMV, get a "branded title", and should it ever be repaired and recommissioned, that brand will still follow it (a "rebuilt salvage title").
Old 09-16-2015, 11:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
Fortunately, the DC DMV had some sense knocked into its head and now has much more rational policies regarding plates. Apparently this bit of common sense hasn't hit Maryland. It's crazy.
Why would they ever change? I'm sure a lot of people just pay these "fees." It sounds like a great scam.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 09-16-2015 at 11:26 PM.
Old 09-16-2015, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by grude View Post
What the........so they charge you a fee without even having to prove you broke a law by driving the car?! What if it was totaled, or something broke and it was up on bricks in a yard, or scrapped, or a million other ways a car can be not being driven.

Thats crazy, I know in Texas my parents scrapped cars.
Having a car registered in MD without insurance is against the law, not just driving it without insurance or tags. Keeping the tags qualifies as having the vehicle registered even if you no longer are in possession of the vehicle. That's why they're called registration tags by the MVA. If you aren't going to drive it, you need to return the tags if you don't want to be penalized for canceling insurance.

If something happens to the car or vehicle, you have to deal with the MD MVA. They have (sometimes onerous) procedures to show you can't return the tags. For example, if it's totaled you need a letter from the insurance company stating such. If the tags are stolen, I believe you have to notify the police and give the MVA a copy of the police report.

Last edited by theR; 09-16-2015 at 11:36 PM.
Old 09-17-2015, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
Proof of insurance and registration from 15 years ago?
Quote:
Originally Posted by grude View Post
What the........so they charge you a fee without even having to prove you broke a law by driving the car?!
That's one reason the scam targets the ancient past -- it's much harder to gather evidence to refute the claim.

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Originally Posted by Lord Feldon View Post
Why would they ever change?
I cynically suspect that the reason DC changed its ways is that the scammers were foolish enough to target a Congresscritter or other VIP. In time, the same may happen to the Old Line State.
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