Fairfax County plans license plate crackdown

WASHINGTON — Residents of Fairfax County who have kept license plates on their cars from Maryland or other states should prepare for a costly crackdown: County leaders are responding to complaints about the number of cars regularly parked in many neighborhoods overnight without Virginia plates.

The Fairfax County Board Tuesday asked for changes to a law that currently fines car owners who fail to properly register their cars a one-time $250 fee. The board wants that fine to be charged annually, on top of the existing $100 “no-plate tax” that was introduced in fiscal year 2010.

In addition, the board heard more details about plans for a crackdown by police and sheriff’s deputies to catch more residents with out-of-state plates, and charge them the fines and fees called for by the existing law.

Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler says the effort will focus on “known neighborhoods that have this chronic problems,” including several areas in Supervisor Jeff McKay’s Lee district. The district covers the area south of the Beltway, west of the Fairfax County Parkway and Fort Belvoir North Area, east of U.S. Route 1 and north of the Interstate 95 interchange with the Fairfax County Parkway.

“This is one of those things where we can really generate revenue, and educate the public. Because there are instances where people just don’t know, and then there are instances where people are deliberately doing this,” McKay says.

An unscientific survey of a Springfield neighborhood on a recent Sunday morning revealed a “large number” of cars that were not properly registered in Virginia, McKay says.

“I regularly hear from constituents who are concerned that the display of out-of-state plates gives the inference that these residents may be skirting our local tax laws,” McKay adds.

There are exemptions, including for cars owned by members of the military and full-time college students.

“The intent behind this legislation was that the combined charge of $350 would provide an annual inducement to get owners to comply with Virginia law and properly display Virginia license plates,” McKay says.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth sees a lot of Maryland license plates on cars that seem to be owned by people who live in the county.

“Even if we only get $250 once, it’s still $250 plus the (no plate tax),” she says.

Roessler says he met with county tax staff this week to coordinate the license plate checks with the sheriff’s office to make sure there are no overlapping efforts.

“We have a few volunteers that are willing to be trained with our traffic division to go out and target neighborhoods throughout the county,” Roessler says.

The sheriff’s office is also directing deputies to keep an eye out for any potential registration issues as they crisscross the county as part of daily duties.

D.C. has a similar, but more stringent, enforcement program focused on vehicles that park overnight on city streets without District plates. It can result in $100 tickets for each time a car is spotted parked overnight within 180 days after a warning ticket is issued.

Fairfax County does not ban repeated overnight parking by people who live out of state.

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