To the drivers out there who work very hard to deliver our packages and safely transport our citizens, to the employees out there who commute an hour each way to jobs you don’t like to provide for your family, to the entrepreneurs out there who risk it all for a dream, to the responsible parents out there who are never late picking up your children from school, and to those who come to the USA legally for a better life, this post is for you!
The government does not make it easy for a regular person to get ahead. Instead, the government allows people who are already wealthy with tremendous resources beat the system at the average person’s expense. If you can afford a lawyer or an assistant to deal with all the red tape, then life is easy. But very few people can.
In addition to deciding who gets to marry or who gets a a tax credit, the government can also keep you hostage, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Let me explain my latest run in with the government that has robbed me of five hours of my life.
Driver License Renewal Time
In California your driver license expires on your birthday every five years. The CA DMV will mail you a renewal notice about two months before expiration. When I got my renewal notice, I paid my renewal fee by credit card and received an e-mail confirmation.
With one week left before expiration and still no new driver license in the mail, I began to worry. Could it be the government is screwing me again with its antiquated systems? So, I called CA DMV to ask my status. After being on hold for 35 minutes, here’s what they said, “Sorry, I need to transfer you to the Error Processing unit. I cannot help you. It appears your credit card did not go through.”
Seriously? I’ve used my credit card multiple times since I paid the renewal fee almost two months ago. I wait another 30 minutes to explain my situation to a new person.
She responds, “The Federal government passed a law to place a hold on all driver license renewals for unpaid bills. New York state has a block on your driver’s license. Please call them to inquire what is going on. ”
OK, WTF. The last time I lived and worked in New York was in 2001. I’ve been a California resident and taxpayer since. I renewed my California driver license in 2006 and again in 2011 without problems, so this new Federal law must have gone into effect within the past five years.
The CA DMV Error Processing person gave me a reference number and the NY State DMV number to call: 518 473 5595. So I did. After navigating through a bunch of options and waiting another 30 minutes, I spoke to another woman to explain my situation again.
Of course, she said she couldn’t help me, and told me to hang tight as she transferred me to another department to deal with these issues. After another 25 minutes, a woman came on to hear my situation. After doing some digging, this is what she said.
“It looks like in June 2001 you owned a vehicle in New York that had a lapse of insurance coverage. As a result, you owe a $25 penalty fee to get your hold removed. How would you like to proceed?”
HUH?! Before coming out to San Francisco in 2001, I sold my New York registered vehicle to someone. Why do I need to pay insurance for a vehicle I do not own or operate?
“According to our records, you are still the owner of this vehicle,” she went on to explain.
Crap. So I guess apparently whoever bought the car from me never registered the vehicle under his name. Did he take apart my car and sell it for parts?!
The NY DMV woman said there was nothing she could do except take the $25 payment over the phone with my credit card to terminate this lapse of insurance plus a $5 service charge. Further, she said she could not e-mail proof of payment or immediately update the system electronically. Instead, I would have to wait for a week to get the proof of payment via snail mail!
Now I’m wondering whether this confirmation will ever arrive. Given the DMV’s antiquated systems, California won’t get notice of my cleared New York state driving record from 15 years ago for another 5-10 business days. As a result, no new driver license and I’m not allowed to drive!
Screw The System
What’s amazing is the California DMV didn’t bother telling me that my payment hadn’t gone through due to a New York insurance fee situation. If it had, obviously I would have handled the situation sooner.
What’s also amazing is that not only were my 2006 and 2011 CA driver license renewals processed without problems, but it is 15 years later that I get an erroneous charge on a vehicle I sold back in 2001. The Federal government is creating more red tape to screw innocent citizens out of their time and money.
What if I made my living as a full-time Uber driver? I logged on to my Uber app as I always do when I’m driving somewhere more than 20 minutes away to make some extra money. DENIED! The app won’t work because my drivers license is expired and I can’t get a new one to upload.
What if I drove an hour to work each way every day? SORRY! I guess I’ll just have to take the bus two hours each way instead.
What if my kids depended on me to drop them off and pick them up every day? I guess I could rent a cheap rental car for $50 until I finally get my driver license in the mail. Oh wait, that won’t work because I have no license.
To expedite proof of settling my New York auto insurance issue, the NY DMV said I could call the Out Of State Call Center at 518-473-5595 the next day, select “Abstracts” in the menu option, request “License Abstract” to show that my license suspension is removed, and request at my own cost documentation to prove my innocence.
After dealing with the Out Of State Call Center, I can then call the National Drivers Center at 888-851-0436 to get further proof I’m cleared. Oh my goodness. This is crazy!
And after I waste another couple more hours of my life, I then have to call the California Error Processing Sector at 916-657-8545 to make sure its system shows I’m cleared in New York. Well I did call a week later, and it looks like I’m cleared from the national driver license registry. But, I have to wait another 7 – 10 business days for me to actually receive my license. Who knows whether or not my license will get lost in the mail?
Bottom line: thanks to the government not keeping accurate records and failing to update their data management system, I’ll be out of a driver license for about two weeks at least and up to a couple months. I was told I have to wait 30 days to contact the CA DMV again if my new driver license does not come in 10 business days. Outrageous. I accept responsibility for not knowing completely the NY state DMV rules. Now I hope the following solutions below will help others prevent some pain as well.
Countering Government Oppression
During this ongoing DMV process, I kept telling myself, “Never give up. Never give up. Don’t ever give up.” I was channeling Jimmy Valvano’s amazing ESPN speech about fighting cancer. While I know some people who have been completely screwed by the government, I just have to keep faith that everything will be OK.
Some argue that such an experience is not oppression, but an inconvenience. Clearly these folks cannot empathize with people who rely on their vehicle to survive. This is government oppression if 1) you did nothing wrong and 2) you will be fined or jailed if you don’t follow the government’s rules while doing nothing wrong!
1) After you sell a vehicle, immediately contact your auto insurance company and the DMV to tell them the vehicle has been sold. Provide them the buyer’s information and all relevant details. Do not assume like I did the DMV will just know. For some reason, the buyer of my vehicle never registered it in his name.
2) After you pay your driver license renewal fee, within a week call the DMV and verify your payment went through. Do not expect the DMV to inform you if it doesn’t. DMV’s systems suck. Never trust the DMV or the government to do the right thing for you.
3) Become financially independent as soon as possible. I’m mostly mad about the government wasting my time and causing undue stress. I first stressed wondering whether the license got lost in the mail. Then I stressed about whether I owed some massive back taxes to New York. If you have a large emergency fund, it’s much easier to deal with these unfortunate situations. By writing this post, I’m trying to make lemonade by hopefully helping thousands of other people who depend on driving to make their lives work. It’s important that everybody offers a solution to problems they face.
4) Try to get off the grid. The more you make, the more the government wants to take from you. The more assets you have, the more the government wants to tax you too. If you can make yourself a ghost by earning nothing, you’ll have less paperwork to file and less taxes to pay. Instead, try to live off the government! If you don’t own any property, the government can’t charge you property taxes or confiscate the land you already own. If you can get rid of your car, you won’t have the associated renewal fees, tickets, maintenance, and insurance costs. Less is more!
5) Avoid doing business in California or New York. Instead, look for more tax friendly states such as Deleware and Nevada. California and New York aggressively tax W2 earners and small businesses.
Be aware that if you get caught driving with an expired driver license, you can be jailed or fined. You can be banned from driving and have your car impounded too. You might even get a misdemeanor on your record. Some states have grace periods of up to 90 days after your driver license expire to drive and renew. But it’s up to you to check your state’s local laws.
I hope this post helps drivers everywhere. It may have taken me five hours to rectify this situation, but it may take many people many more hours, especially if they don’t read this post. Some, I fear, will just simply give up altogether and just drive on a suspended license. Think about the millions of people out there who don’t speak English as a first language. Navigating the bureaucracy is brutal enough!
To those who continuously vote for laws that require more and more government, please stop. The larger government gets, the more it will find ways to restrict your freedom. Freedom is what people have died fighting for. Do not let the government take advantage of you!
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