The DMV. Forever in the list of places you only want to go if there’s a zombie apocalypse going on and the only other option is to run towards them shouting “What about me!? What about me!?” sadly for us we’re forced to go if we want to drive our cherished chariots or, in my case last month, because you have to fight a ticket. No rest for the weary.
The DMV, called “Direccion Nacional de Transito” here is one of those buildings that I like to think of as great equalizers. Everyone from the most common of the common all the way up to a congressman is forced to come to this building and do their own paperwork to get a permit or renovate it. There’s no guy with a stack of papers outside to tell you that he’ll get you what you need if you only pay him. And because your permit can last at five years at the most it they have to do it with a modicum of regularity. Hopefully most of them don’t inspire enough fear to just have some random copper rubber stamp their procedure and are just there to get their picture taken.
Apart from people renovating permits there’s always a healthy line of people that have to pay a ticket. I should point out that getting a ticket means that the nice cop takes your permit away instantly and then gives you the ticket. None of this nonsense about getting points on a license and penalties and higher insurance rates over here. No, one strike and you’re out of a permit. The permit itself gets taken to one of the main DNT offices, not a problem if you’re in a big city but quite annoying literally everywhere else. The ticket itself gives you 48 hours behind the wheel for you to go to the DNT, pay the fine and get your permit back or fight it. You get your permit back after you either pay the ticket or you successfully fight it.
And fight it I would. Really, the only thing worse than getting a ticket is getting a ticket for a completely idiotic reason, but we’ll get to that on a bit. At least the last time I was here was because I wanted to renovate my permit and that really only took about half an hour and had no headaches apart from the usual orderly queues where everyone decides they’re far too busy to make a proper line and cut to the front of the line.
Unlike the American system where, someone correct me if I’m wrong here, the ticket itself has a written date where you have to go to court should you wish to fight it. Over here there’s a little room that acts as court where the judge tells you if you’re right or wrong (nobody else in there but you, him and some random staff). My particular case should’ve been an open-shut case. I had documented that the reason why the officer had written the ticket was ludicrous and that my car had been that way for at least a decade now, matched the information on the registration, and nobody had complained until officer Christmas Bonus there picked a target. Really it was a matter of procedure so I could get my ticket and keep avoiding the Christmas season traffic.
I entered the makeshift court secure in the knowledge that the judge would also see it that way. Thankfully this would only take a minute as this room was also deprived of functioning air conditioning. It did have a unit but it seemed it was there mostly to fill the room with that smell that only a terminally-ill air conditioning unit does. Did he see it my way? Would I be writing about this in excruciating detail and wrote an article about it if he had?
No, in fact his only acknowledgment of my presence was the dry “Pay the ticket” he blurted out as I finished explaining what happened. I’m guessing that he says that a lot. And so I was forced to join the queue to pay the ticket. Mercifully without cutter because who would like to have to pay money sooner than everybody else? At least the ticket was only L.600 (around $30) and it’s the highest fine you can pay in the country. Doesn’t sound like much but when you compare it to the average wage it’s actually rather a lot. To make matters worse my old permit actually expired so I had to get another one “Since I was there anyway.”
Really, the system is not really that bad. Add some air conditioning, a judge that…gives a crap and more locations where you can go and claim your permit and you have a system that actually forces you to settle your matters with the law as quickly as possible. If you get caught driving without a permit or with an expiring ticket your car goes to the impound and you go to jail. I’ve never had a car impounded but I’ve been told that when they come back it’s not entirely out of the question that they’re missing some useless things like the A/C compressor or the toolkit.
And the reason I got into this mess in the first place. Well, my car is registered as being “Yellow/Gold” in the document. Most of it is actually gold with a contrasting brown. Nothing unusual in that. However, the front of it looks like this:
This was classified as “Unreported Modifications” by Officer Christmas Bonus. May he had to make several mile-long queues to do his shopping
It proves that officer Christmas Bonus is not color blind.
So, any “modifications” (i.e. other than stock wheels, exhaust, etc) have to be reported/approved by some governmental agency?
Only things like engine swaps and color changes.
In Germany you need a document that accompanies the car. It is called “Kraftfahrzeugbrief”, loosely translated it means motor vehicle identification. It is originated by the manufacturer and includes the VIN and all major technical specifications of the vehicle: engine size and horse power, number of seats, gross vehicle weight, dimensions, tire size and speed rating and so on. There are very few things you can change without making this document invalid. If you do want to modify the vehicle you must take it to the equivalent of the MOT in order to enter the changes into this document. You can only make modifications that the manufacturer has approved. Upgraded brakes? Flared fenders? Widened track, wider tires, different exhaust? Everything must be approved by the manufacturer and must be documented in the motor vehicle ID.
Here in the US in most states you can modify the heck out of your vehicle without going through all this trouble.
However, getting a ticket for an off color hood is extreme, very extreme. This is not likely to happen in Germany. I would have been mad as much as Gerardo was.
That’s a little ridiculous!
I had a 1987 Chevrolet that I got as a project truck. It was grey (And bondo). I repainted it to be two tone green and white, and registration was easy. I told the lady at the counter that we repainted it, and that it was now green and white. They put that on the registration, and that was that.
Did they change your registration, are you painting it, or are you still “illegal”, if you don’t mind me asking.
Stil “Illegal”. I’ll restore it to the original colors eventually but to be honest I prefer it to be primered than to rattle can it gold.
Seeing what they make you go through I would be buying some rattle can yellow/gold and spraying away as soon as possible.
I lived in Panama for a few years in the mid 90’s. They had an unusual system for your car registration. You had to get a a numbered window sticker (that went inside your rear window and you had to get one every year. The catch was that the number on the sticker has to match the one on your license plate. There is only one sticker in all of Panama City that matches your license plate…. But there are six or seven DMV offices. It does not seem to be automatic that your sticker will be in the office nearest your residential address So good luck guessing, Mr. Not-from-around-here guy. Obviously, you have to have a safety inspection documented and proof of insurance to qualify to receive your sticker. A couple of the things noted on your safety inspection form are your mother’s maiden name, and whether or not your car has air conditioning. Well, air conditioning IS an important safety feature after all. Right?
Apparently this whole inspection system is largely imaginary, or at least it can be said that cash may be substituted many of the elements of the system. At least I suspect that. Either that or some drivers went to the trouble of removing both doors and the car hoodafter passing inspection.
In my case, one year I accidentally almost skipped the whole process. Someone in my office offered to help me navigate the process. I gave him all the important things – my plate number, the color of my car, air conditioning status, mama’s maiden name and $40. Imagine my surprise when I found that two days later my car successfully passed inspection without the bother of ever leaving my garage and the paperwork and sticker all appeared on my desk. Just to be sure, I went to a garage and got an actual physical inspection just to have the document.
I will say that I visited Honduras a few times and found the country much more systematically run than Panama, from what I saw anyhow.
As a sidenote, both countries seemed to have a lot of interesting cars I’d never seen or, in some cases, even heard of before: Ssangyoung, anyone?
Well that sure was an annoying and interesting experience. I have never had a problem at the Tompkins County DMV nor their system of laws which I have dealt with a lot so when people talk of DMVs being horrible I am always perplexed. Have had a wee taste of the California DMV so I can begin to comprehend why people have a distaste for DMVs. I wonder how different DMVs in The States would react if I had a vehicle that was once one color and I painted it similar to that Studebaker from the Muppet Movie.
“Unlike the American system where, someone correct me if I’m wrong here, the ticket itself has a written date where you have to go to court should you wish to fight it”
Well that is usually how you do it in the USA, though some areas may vary most jurisdictions do something similar.
Unless the poor schmuck lives in Washington DC then your f$%Ked. D.C. has competing agencies that can write tickets for parking and driving violations. Fighting a ticket can take years and your best bet is to shame them by contacting the local radio station which does a ticket buster expose. The DC government is full of idiots. Case in point the idiot ticket writer writes down the wrong tag number on a car that is illegally parked. Instead of a red Lexus with VG tags(which was the car parked there), they miswrite the tag number so somebody in Maryland with a blue Hyundai is getting tickets. One would think that once the error was pointed out, then it would all be resolved but no not in DC, the agency responsible digs in and sends ticket after ticket to the owner of the Hyundai.
Note to our international readers: the Washington D.C. Government is a different entity then the US Government. While the US. Government has its issues and can be a little dysfunctional at times, the Washington D.C Government is full of idiots (layer after layer of them)
As for car colors, I would love to see how that harlequin edition multi colored VW Golf was classified color wise
You can concatenate colors so it’d look something like “Amarillo/Rojo/Azul/Verde” (Yellow/Red/Blue/Green)
Here in Eastern Canukistan in sure that if your car is not the same color as what’s on the registration there will be a ticket. There are officers in the city (Halifax) that write more than 1500 moving violations a year. Without moving out of a 25 mile radius. A friend of mine is a officer and he says most write 75-100 per year.
Surreal. In my bag of memories there is an El Salvador license, US Virgin Islands
and Guyana licenses. Never bothered to get one when we lived in Honduras but
I did deal with many officers, most of whom did not even have a license. We lived
near La Ceiba and every trip into town was an adventure. The one that was most
fun was the time I got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. We were parked with the
engine shut off, daughter and son and I, waiting for Mom to finish shopping. The
cop worked a long time to come up with something, anything, to write up. The good
Sargento Tomás at HQ and I became friends.
Having lived in nine different countries (or territories) you know this article rang a bell.
Gerardo Solis, Thanks for the flash-back amigo.
Que Via Bien.
I had an adventure trying to get an out of province travel trailer registered here in British Columbia. Here the registration is province run but you can get the plates at any number of local agents. Having confirmed I could import the trailer without having to out of province safety inspect the thing I went 3 times to try to get the plates. First time I didn’t have a bill of sale that they liked so I got the previous owner to fill out the one that they approved. Second time I didn’t have enough numbers on the vin (trailer was from 1976) it was lucky it even came with a vin. Third time I didn’t have the gross weight on the previous registration because Alberta doesn’t seem to care about that information if it’s not commercial. But the third one was the charm and after an hour and $65 for insurance and tax I was finally on my merry way.
Wow. I have lived in Pennsylvania and Georgia and neither of them reflect the vehicle color on the title or registration. Are there US states that do?
Honestly it’s never occurred to me to look on the registration for color. I’ve had several cars that have “changed color” and no one has ever said a thing to me about it (though come to think of it I never received a ticket in the ’82 Malibu after its color change…)
Seems kind of odd. If you go to the trouble to respray a car in order to do something devious, then wouldn’t you also change the license plate? So it’s not going to match any of the registration info. AKA why do they even care.