The Day The Tyrannical Government Suspended My Driver License

government tyranny

The government suspends my driver license one year. I want to share my story.

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.

Long hold with DMV - driver license fight
1 hour, 5 minutes, 33 seconds and counting with NY DMV

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 DMV Is The Worst

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.

Shut out from driving because my driver license was suspended
Shut out from making money driving

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.

Drivers 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. Tt 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!

To never experience what I am experiencing, here are some strategies:

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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126 thoughts on “The Day The Tyrannical Government Suspended My Driver License”

  1. 7 years later some crap popped up after I moved to a new state from … I don’t feel like writing out the whole story I hope those people at DMV choke on a piece of meat turn blue suffer and die. I did not do anything to anyone and the are _____ up my life. Choke suffer then die I hope so.

  2. Hello…
    First off, thank you for putting your story up for others to read and hopefully learn from.

    Ordinarily, I don’t leave​ comments of any nature. However, after reading this, I felt you and your readers needed to know what I’m talking about.

    Your post which, implied the state of New York dropped the ball, left it up to you to fix. Weather with or without knowledge CA’s DMV became a co-conspirator in the matter.
    Although this​ appears (on the surface) to be an isolated event perpetrated by the New York government & our federal government, it’s important to know that this isn’t as isolated as one may think.

    In my personal experience, I gave a 1991 Subaru to someone down on their luck. Following CA’s DMV rules, I filled out and submitted (in person) a release of liability as well as reporting the gift.

    As it turns out the receiving party began the transfer process but never completed the change of ownership. Six (6) years later the Ca Highway Patrol issued a tow notice and citation for the unregistered vehicle being illegally parked on the street. This caused a $500 towing service, vehicle impounding at the rate of $30/day, a lien filed, and the car disposed of. All in all the bill was $1,850.00 + interest of $300.00 & another $285 in lien fees, for a grand total of $2,470.00!

    That same year when renewing my Ca DL, I was told in order to get my license renewed & the suspension (which I knew nothing about) lifted, I must pay the now nearly $2600 bill.

    Once I explained I had done the release of liability I still had to wait as some peon in Sacramento, failed to enter the release in the system. Having been so many years later the document had to be ordered from CA DMV storage and printed from I the microfilm. After several cruciatingly painful weeks I was able to get the bill removed (for a $25.00 administrative fee).

    I say this so you and others know that this isn’t just an isolated event. Rather it is a coast to coast issue. Being a law-abiding, truthful citizen means nothing. Yes it was fixed but it shouldn’t have ever been an issue to begin with!

    Regardless of what state you live in, before buying, selling, accepting or giving a gift of any vehicle or vessel, DO NOT assume that by following the rules you’ll be in the clear. The facade the government has provided you to feel safe is the very government that is all to happy to pilfer every last cent from it’s law abiding citizens. Be assured though…should you ever be wronged by them, you can expect nothing less than a lifetime of consequences with little to no mercy shown or a condescending oops were sorry, & good luck!

    So beware and be-a-ware when conducting business with the government. Regardless of the issue you will suffer in some fashion the wrath of US Officials.

  3. Rights, like driving, are now being held hostage under any excuse whatsoever for the sake of manipulation. See 42 USC 666, which says they’ll stop you from driving or getting married if you won’t bear the mark of the beast (the SSN)

  4. Vancouver Brit

    You seem to have a pretty antiquated system in the US for driver licensing huh?

    In Canada (at least in BC) you just walk into the local ICBC (they have branches everywhere) and you can usually sort out any problem there and then. If for some reason you need to renew a license last minute and wait for a new one in the mail, they provide you with a temporary paper license to use until your new card arrives in the mail. Not exactly rocket science.

    Is there no way of sorting licensing issues out in person in the US that would expedite the process?

  5. I know that this is an old article; I’ve recently discovered this site and have been reading backwards.

    Just a tip for other readers on selling a car. In NY (and NJ & PA) when a car is sold the seller is supposed to remove the license plate(s). The plates are then turned into the DMV who will provide a receipt. This receipt is the proof that your car is no longer on the road.

    In CA the title has an attached Transfer and Release of Liability form. This needs to be filled out with the new owner’s name and address. It should be taken by the seller. Every time I’ve bought a used motorcycle in CA the seller has mistakenly left the form on the title.

  6. A short history and then my own FUBAR story.

    The national DL registry was created by Congress in the 1990s in response to abuses by truckers and other drivers who would run up violation points and to avoid suspension or revocation would go to a different state (easy for long-haul truckers) to reset the ‘point clock’ to zero. Now, any state can block a driver from getting or renewing a DL in any other state.

    About 15 years ago I had an abrupt and extended hospitalization, during which my tags expired. My car was parked off-street in my driveway – no garage or carport – but received a number of tickets (‘abandoned vehicle’) because the tags were expired and the town was anal regarding enforcement of its codes.

    By the time I got out of the hospital, the tickets had defaulted and run up several hundred dollars in fines, which I had no way of paying. Since I was also not yet able to return to work – had limited mobility and needed a walker – family relocated me cross-country and took me in until I could return to work. The tickets are no longer enforceable – statute of limitations ran out – but I’d have to pay a nominal reinstatement fee to get a DL again.

  7. As a disabled veteran, I disagree with your statement “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!”

    I was willing to risk my life not for a small or large government not for no regulation and restrictions verses regulations and restrictions but for the right to choose my government. The Boston Tea Party was not about no taxes, it was about No taxes without representation. No taxes without a voice. I also find it Interesting that our founder took the individual voice and decided to be a collective voice. In other words, the guy or gal who gets the vote and gets elected, gets the voice for his entire district.

    Now I am not arguing for or against a small or large government. I am not arguing for against restrictions and regulations. That is another debate for another time.

    But please don’t confuse Freedom and an elected government actions and decisions. The last time I looked, most people in the Country of ours have the right and unrestricted opportunity to vote their way and at any time another group of people can vote another way.

    But please, for the love of God, don’t discount or diminish the right to choose a Government and the right to choose a poorly ran government as a marker for measuring our Freedom.

    The fact that either can be chosen is Freedom. The fact there is another election coming in the future where they can be fired and a new group put in is Freedom. Absent them taking the right to choose the government away, even boneheads elected is Freedom.

    My people may win this election and take the country one way and your people may win at the next election and take the country another direction. My Friend, that is freedom.

    1. Thanks for your service and your thoughts.

      Your words remind me of a great quote from Mance Rader, “the freedom to make my own mistakes is all i ever wanted.”

      I’ve seen the corruption, the inefficiencies, the $2B price tag to build Politicians are politicians due to their EGOs. I believe we can do better to help each other.

      Related: How Much Of My Time And Money Should I Give To Charity?

  8. Finance Solver

    Man, the thing I hate about the TX DMV is that their number never seems to work. Even though it took 30 minutes, at least you were able to navigate through the options and talk to a real live person. I called and had to listen to the “on hold” song for 15 minutes before I gave up, tried again, listened to the tune for another 15 minutes and gave up and went there in person. I had one quick question that would have taken 2 minutes to answer but instead it took 1+ hours!

  9. Well, just to throw the other perspective out there, I knew a woman who worked at a MD DMV in the early 2000’s. She is friendly and smiles a lot. She said she was forced to stop that at work. People come in with huge chips on their shoulders, many already looking for a fight and just flat out mad that they are there at all. She smiled at someone and they ripped into her on her first day. Happened again the next week. Taught her not to smile at people or say anything conversationally. People would give her the evil eye when she went to a “window” at the counter to use a computer and didn’t open the window to take people in line to shorten their weight. Some even spoke up about it and would make comments. They didn’t know that there were certain things that could only be done at those computers because of the dumb system at the time and the employees would periodically have to go sit at one and not open the line while they worked.

    She also had to deal with many a dreg. A lot of people lie, flat out. They lie about stupid things like their age even when their birth certificate says different, they lie about their past and what happened, they bring conflicting information, they spin fantastic excuses as to why they don’t have the paperwork they need, they bring documents like employee badges to “prove” who they are instead of birth certificates or even their old license, and whenever they are questioned they tend to get loud, mean, and blow up, delaying the process for everyone.

    Even when it isn’t a lie, the state lays out the requirements, and often she would try to be helpful because that was her nature, but she couldn’t do anything if someone didn’t bring the state required information. She also couldn’t make exceptions to what was required even if she mentally agreed with the person that the system was nuts, like in this case how they could have issued multiple licenses over the years and suddenly there is a problem 15 years after the fact. They just aren’t given that amount of leeway, mainly because over all the years the dregs have forced the system to tighten up via their abuse of it.

    Sam mentioned someone depending on their license for a living. When she was a commercial license tester for large vehicles, she was often escorted by an officer because some of these big rig guys and gals had jobs and livelihoods riding on passing the exams and a few of them got out of control when they didn’t pass. So it’s no joy working there either.

  10. I have not driven in 7 years. On my birthday, I went to renew my license. There was a problem. They decided that my letter from the government as partial proof of address did not count because I did not bring the envelope it came in. The letter had my address, the government letterhead, and the date, but no. It just wouldn’t work. This requirement was not listed online. I had to come back to the DMV and wait again for my turn – this time with an envelope. They never asked me if I was still safe to drive. They never asked why I have never registered a car. They just needed a million versions of proof for my actual address. It was ridiculous.

  11. I felt my blood pressure rise as I read this story. Think about all the jobs this all has created!! How many people did you have the pleasure of talking to?? All in the most sarcastic way possible.

    Man it is truly incredible how much money is spent in inefficient ways throughout the government. You would think by now, with all the technology we have, that systems would talk to each other, but clearly we’re a long ways from that. Or maybe the inefficiency is by design? It’s hard not to think so.

    1. It’s like the tax lobby industry. They want more and more complicated tax codes so they can stay in business. And the IRS isn’t incentivized to make things simple either so they can earn more in late fees and penalty charges.


  12. Pertinent update: there are currently four men working on building a retaining wall in the back of my house. This is a crew I worked with last year, and one of the workers legally immigrated from China four years ago. His English is poor, so as a result he went from working as a Chinese government official to being a construction laborer here in the US.

    His boss is demanding, and doesn’t really let him breathe when he is around because he is paying his work or by the hour. But today, he snuck away while I was working in the front of the house because he wanted to ask me a question. He came up to me and showed me a picture on his phone. It was a picture of a contract of some sort. He asked me to translate what was scribbled working in the front of the house because he wanted to ask me a question. He came up to me and showed me a picture on his phone. It was a picture of a contract of some sort. He asked me to translate what was scribbled on the document. Basically, it said that he needed to initial in each box and then sign his name at the bottom of the document. Event needed to confirm that he understood everything in the document.

    I didn’t ask him what the document was about, but it looked like a renewal of some sort. Perhaps for his vehicle, or perhaps for his green card, not sure. He thanked me profusely for explaining to him what he needed to do in the document and he told me he has absolutely zero faith and doing things right without some type of help because things are so confusing. His documents were already sent back once for filling the info wrong.

    So imagine this guy losing his license because of some weird law. There is absolutely NO WAY he would have ever been able to renew his license if he were me. No chance in hell. This is why when you go to court you see free translators accompany the defendant in front of the judge. It is to help the people who have a very difficult time helping themselves because the system is so complex.

    A more streamlined process and a more efficient DMV is important. People lose hope when things get so complicated. If you can afford a lawyer, great. But most people cannot. The system is crushing those who need THE MOST help.

    1. This is absolutely correct. I consider myself a privileged and well-educated American, and I’m actually one of those weirdos who enjoys navigating bureaucracy successfully. When I moved to Denmark for grad school, dealing with government regulations (even in a country with very high English literacy and some dual language forms) was incredibly hard. The poor and uneducated have a snowball’s chance.

  13. Great article! I truly believe emotional intelligence is the most underrated skill in the workplace and life. With everything at our fingertips, we forget to take the time to get to know people on a personal level and connect outside of the daily hustle. I will definitely be sharing this with my colleagues.

  14. Dear financial samurai. I am a 24 year old east coast public accountant who has a question in regards to west coast financial opportunities and MBA programs. Is there a way I can get in touch with you via email? I would really appreciate it.

  15. Sam – I believe there is second lesson to be learned for your readers beyond the vehicle fiasco (the original point to this post) and that is how to professionally respond to criticism, to which you have put on a clinic in your responses to the commenters.

    I enjoy reading your articles, but often times get the biggest kick out of your responses to your detractors. Keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Thanks for your comment Matt! Very nice of you to say. All I wish is for those who dissent to just share where they are coming from. There’s asymmetric information here, which often puts me at a loss for how to properly debate and respond. We all know that our comments are more a reflection of ourselves than of someone else. So I try not to get too bent out of shape when the tidal wave comes. The angrier the person, the better it’s probably best for me to just listen.

      Any chance you read this post: A Key To An Easier Life? High Emotional Intelligence? Because your comment displays some high EI!

      1. Thanks for high EI compliment! The article you reference was one of my favorite articles in the last few months.

        Improving EI is an evolving process for me (and probably many of your readers). Your list of (8) points for developing EI is spot on and is a good point to reference moving forward. If we all check ourselves every few months, we can constantly improve and become better people for ourselves and for those around us.

  16. E30MeisterBrau

    Great write-up. Navigating bureaucracies is an unfortunate part of life. One that makes you want to run for the woods, grow a beard and start selling artisan jams by the side of the road.

    But! To add another helpful tip for your readers. Even if your state does not require it (and most do not) you should get a signed and notarized bill of sale put together whether you are selling or buying a vehicle.

    In your instance, the Bill of Sale would have been proof for NY that the car was not under your ownership, allowing you to avoid the penalty costs, and maybe shortcutting some, though not all of this hassle.

    You can get a sample bill of sale from numerous sources online but common information to include is:

    -Name and Address of Seller and Buyer
    -Make, Model, VIN and Mileage of Vehicle being transferred
    -As/Is warranty disclaimer
    -Signature Lines

    Getting a notary to endorse it might be a bit of overkill but removes any question about whether the people involved were legitimately who they claimed to be.

    1. Hilarious! I so wanted to get off the grid during my 5 hour navigation.

      Thanks for offering a great suggestion. So much better than just pointing fingers.

      I just turned 24 when this incident happened. What did I know about selling my first car? Hope other car owners reading can save some headache.

      Fight on!

  17. I didn’t hear about them not impounding cars in CA for not having insurance but I know they CAN impound the car for not being registered, depends if the officer or CHP is nice.

    The bottom points of your article are really good. There was once a time people didn’t need a “license” to drive. Keep your wealth out of government reach. The German banks now must force all new account holders to disclose if we have any bank accounts outside of Germany, so damn nosy so we walked out and told them to screw the regulators. Bitcoin will explode as the world gets sick of this control and over taxation.

  18. Nishank Pathak

    I don’t know about California and New York, but here in Florida seller can submit a form to the DMV, after selling your car, that says that you do not own that car anymore. If your state has such a rule and you did not do your due diligence, then I won’t blame the government. I am sorry but, it is you who is at fault.

    1. Indeed. Which is why I published this post to help other people who also depend on their car to not make the same mistake.

      No need to feel sorry for me. My focus is to share a situation and to provide solutions. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

      Feel free to share your background and any solutions if you have any.

    2. Ms. Conviviality

      My friend mentioned during lunch today that she was going to be selling her car today. I shared with her the lessons from this post. She’s an auditor and hadn’t even thought about what could happen if the buyer never registers the car. Anyway, she was appreciative for the information and went to the sale with the proper form needed. Thanks, FS, for this is one person that’s benefited from your post.

      1. Ah, great to hear! The process was stressful and I do hope I can save more people from going through this similar type of stress.

        It’s not like we are all private party car buying and selling experts. I was 24 at the time I sold my first car I bought car in NYC and moved out to SF. Heck if I knew all the rules back them. But I learned, and I’m sharing.

        Your comment about helping your friend made my morning :)

  19. Sam-

    You post a lot of great things, but this post was far beneath the usual quality that you have established as a norm. Everybody who lives here, and I promise you in every other country on earth has had to deal with bureaucratic incompetence like this. We ALL have a stories like this or worse as is evident from the comments. The part that is completely irresponsible to me is that you have tried to make this political, right smack dab in the middle of a crazy amount of political instability that comes in every election year. I know it is not your intention, but this post comes about as boderline clickbait. This is a classic, “it’s all the liberals fault!” woe is me article. It’s not different than Sara’s whiny “rich people” comment above…which was equally ridiculous. You definitely have the right to complain as what happened to you is total BS. It has zero to do with being rich or poor. If you’ve dealt with any business, private or public, then you know the real problem here is that many, MANY, people are horrible at their jobs. Especially jobs that have a low barrier to entry. You can’t conflate that with the current political climate. The two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Your post is a thinly veiled suggestion to vote against “the liberals”. I have some very bad news for you…if Donald Trump gets elected, or if Mit Romney or John McCain were the current president, your story would be exactly the same. There are many areas where government regulations fail the people, and there are many areas where they help, but I’m sad to say, the DMV doesn’t fall into either category. Yes, it’s “government” office but it ends there. If there was just a slight bit of competence, somebody in NY would have looked at this and noted it was ridiculous to even pursue…or somebody in CA would have made sure a letter got to you. There is no “tyranny” here trying to make life harder for you or anybody else. There’s just plain old laziness and lack of care or empathy for the consequences of decisions you make at work. No doubt many people on Wall St. are guilty of this, as well as small businesses on “main street” and everywhere in between. Next time, please stay off the political soapbox…this type of slanderous writing is exactly why we are a country that is so divided.

    1. AC, didn’t realize you would think this is a post against liberals. If anything, it’s the exact opposite. Good feedback as I never mentioned the words “Liberals, Conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Trump, or Hillary.” Perhaps you are reading into this post more than what it is: a post about what to do to not get your driver license suspended, how gov’t red tape trips up a lot of people, especially lower income people who really need to depend on their cars to live, and to think twice about voting more government if you want your freedom.

      You will know when there is a political post when I post one. It is election year after all, and to not talk about politics and how it affects your money would be irresponsible.

      I don’t mind you being a Conservative and voting for Trump. You just have to lay out your arguments as to why and provide solutions, otherwise it’s just a jibber jabber waste of time. But I promise you, once you speak to the drivers who depend on their cars to make a living or lower income folks who can only afford to live an hour away from the city center by car, or the people who are working hourly jobs and can’t understand English well, you will gain more empathy for them and more understanding of how red tape hurts many Americans. And once you do, you might move closer to center.

      I’d love to know more about your background to understand where you’re coming from.

      Please read:

      Spoiled Or Clueless? Try Working A Minimum Wage Job As An Adult

      In Search For Empathy For The Unemployed

      1. Sam-

        You’re right…you didn’t use the words “liberals” or “conservatives”. I think that’s being a bit technical. The phrases “vote for more government” and “tyrannical government” are obvious inflammatory language that send the exact same message. You’ve published plenty of stats about the average reader on this site so I think it is a safe assumption that most of the folks here can read between the lines. I would argue that there is obvious political slant to this post, no matter how carefully you chose your words. The point of my comment was that you’re pushing the idea that this is somehow the fault of big government and in my opinion this particular story has nothing to do with the government. It’s just straight incompetence.

        It’s interesting that you felt I lean one way or the other politically after reading my comment. I was trying to state that politics aren’t even in play here. I feel bad for you, of course, because you have been caught up in a storm of ridiculous bureaucracy. The fact that you can afford to weather that storm and that you are smart enough to navigate through the inefficiencies of the system is not relevant here. I would feel equally annoyed for any friend, family member, or coworker etc. that got caught in the same same storm but the outcome actually affected their livelihood. It is not about rich or poor as I said before and it has nothing to do with my personal background or political beliefs. The bottom line is that these injustices shouldn’t be happening. We all have a DMV story, or a hospital bill story, or a car insurance story. I agree that “red tape hurts many Americans” (personally I would just say “red tape hurts many” and leave it there because this problem exists in every country I have been to/lived in) and I also agree that it is infuriating. My point was that it has nothing to do with a “tyrannical government” as you put it and I felt that it was a bit irresponsible to throw the blame in that direction in such an incendiary way. Whether you intend to or not, this type of writing fans the flames that are dividing the nation. I feel like you write objectively a vast majority of the time, and you are right when you imply that you are clear when you get political. Even in those cases, I feel that you usually assess the situation quite fairly. This post did not have that same tone. I don’t think it is fair to place the blame on “the government” in this situation. I see the problem here is that people are horrible at their jobs. If you want to write an article every time you encounter that, you will be an extremely busy man (not that you aren’t already).

        1. Can you share your background so I can understand you better? Right now I’m just flying blind as I don’t really understand what we are debating about. But it is fun though. I’d love to hear some solutions to the problems we face so we can all benefit. Danka.

          1. Sam-

            Your tone suggests that you think I disagree with you. I hope that’s not the case because I definitely agree that there is a crazy amount of red tape in our lives…I just don’t think the government is to blame.

            I think these two statements you made along with several others makes the discussion political:

            “Why can’t people see government is inefficient and can really hurt innocent people with its excessive policies?”

            “To those who continuously vote for laws that require more and more government, please stop.”

            What I meant by the stats of your readers is that you basically have an audience made up of rather intelligent people…no doubt more educated that the general public as a whole. When somebody uses phrases like “tyrannical government”, it’s fair for an intelligent person to draw the conclusion that the writer of said phrase does not look favorably on the political left. When the writer further points out that those who vote for more government are the source of an issue, an intelligent person might also conclude that the writer of said statement does not look favorably on the political left. In short, intelligent people don’t need to see the exact words “liberal” or “conservative” to know you are talking about liberals and conservatives.

            I guess that’s the political slant I see here. You make several statements that I think an objective reader would consider taking a rather strong stance against “big government”. You make a very clear statement that people should stop voting for “more government”. If your point was really, “hey guys, don’t let the idiots at the DMV stop you from getting your license if you need it to make a living” then I don’t think any of your subjective thoughts about the government would be in this post. In fact, the word government doesn’t even belong here…but as you place the blame there, you take that route for the solution (more on this in a second).

            I offered up an implied solution before, but now I’ll go ahead and spell it out. I previously stated that the problem is that people are horrible at their jobs. I think the solution is to get competent people in positions at the DMV or similar places. I would imagine if YOU were the person in NY in charge of putting a hold on deadbeats that don’t pay tickets, you would quite easily look at an insurance situation like this from 15 years ago, determine exactly what happened with the transfer of sale and then do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I think I competent person would see that and utilize their judgement to the best of their abilities. That’s the solution. Instead, somebody decided to waste your time (and now my time too!). But here is the problem…the need for competent people far exceeds the supply. I suppose education is an answer, but that probably still couldn’t fill in all the gaps. It seems as if the solution you provide is to not “continuously vote for laws that require more and more government”. I don’t think that’s the answer and by saying that I think you are making the discussion political.

            I’m not sure where my background would help here. Are you looking for socioeconomic info? African American. Grew up quite poor in the midwest. Much like yourself, started busting my ass at a young age…paper route at age 11, detasseling every summer (it’s a midwest thing), worked as a bagger at a grocery store from the day I turned 15, worked in a movie theatre and also in restaurants/catering other part time jobs. Put myself through college while accruing massive amounts of student loans, BS in Biochemistry, went to grad school, traveled the world for awhile. Currently live in San Diego and work in pharma/biotech and doing quite well. Lastly, though it’s irrelevant, I don’t consider myself a democrat OR a republican…and I am thus, smack dab in the center. But I don’t think any of this matters if you look at this situation objectively. Can you explain how knowing anything in the above paragraph changes your view of my stance?

            I’ve had plenty of bad cards dealt to me and plenty of good ones, but zero of those cards had to do with how efficiently/poorly my interactions have been with government red tape. That’s my point. I live in California, and I had a very similar situation happen after selling a car…and I was equally annoyed by the entire thing and also wasted hours of my life so I can empathize more than you know. Although I feel I’ve made most of my point here in the comments section, I’ll take you up on your offer to write a guest post. I like the idea. You have my email, so PM me and we’ll set it up. I firmly believe an objective discussion about these matters is more constructive than pilling on to the rather obvious notion that the DMV sucks.

            1. Now we are making progress! I like to know something about the people who I choose to converse with. Otherwise, the conversation is as fun as talking to a brick wall.

              If you want to focus on the politics, then one of the key takeaways is: do your best to vote on legislation if you are also willing to pay for it. It is much too easy for the government to spend other peoples money. Instead, we should be more fiscally responsible just like we are in our personal lives. It is selfish to put the burden on innocent people for our responsibilities.

              If the problem is that people are terrible at their jobs, theb the key is education. I hope I writing this article, people who rely on a car for a living can get better educated and not make the same mistake and get and snarled in the same trap as I did.

              And I challenge you, always think about solutions, and to take action to help other people every time you see something wrong or that could use improvement.

    2. Wrong!! Since Donald Trump has become president, things have gotten better for small businesses, he has eliminated hundreds of restrictive regulations which have helped the economy and job growth. Liberals will be the death of our country.

  20. Oh man, sorry to hear that. DMV is always a PITA to deal with.
    About 12 years ago, I sold a junker and the new owner never bothered to register. I kept getting the registration renewal and I think there was one speeding ticket. I was able to straighten it out with the DMV, though. Yes, make sure you tell the DMV when you sold a car…

  21. And yet the government has no problem taking money from you every chance it gets. I pay a third of each paycheck to the government, and I earn less than $45,000/year! I just registered my side business for sales tax (a process that SHOULD be automated when filing but instead took two hours due to their faulty computer systems) and you wouldn’t believe how many things you can be fined for. They will proudly–PROUDLY–put a small business OUT of business due to an improperly filled out form.

    Honestly, politicians are no different than corner store robbers–ignorant savages who want what’s yours–but dressed nicer. Your livelihood and family’s well being is a threat to them.

    Sorry you had to deal with all that crap, Sam. Makes me glad I don’t drive.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    1. This situation definitely helped me NOT buy a mid-life crisis car. More cars, more problems. I love walking, biking, and taking public transportation.

      Regarding your taxes, just be happy knowing you’re helping pay for the ~48% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes. Now get back to work and deal with those angry retail banking customers with a smile! :)

  22. Sorry Sam but you screwed up. You don’t sell a vehicle without turning your plates and registration into the DMV. A lesson has been learned. With modern technology you can’t get away with anything. As far as the State of NY was concerned you still owned the vehicle. The buyer was under no obligation to title the vehicle if he didn’t plan on ever driving it on public roads. I have sold many a vehicle to private parties. I have officially let every state know if the vehicle had been sold. You register the vehicle…Then you unregistered it. I bet you won’t make that mistake ever again.

    1. Indeed. Lesson learned. Wrote a post. Offered some solutions for those who may get ensnarled in the system as well. I could have saved hours and done nothing. But helping others is the responsible thing to do.

  23. Wow, that’s really aggravating. Dealing with the government here always takes a tremendous amount of energy and patience. I went for my licence years ago (manual gearbox) and when I went to renew, the renewal slip read automatic. I was like wtf? Luckily they pulled my license test records as I took my brother’s manual car for the test. When my new license came, it was blank (doesn’t state automatic or manual). When I pointed it out, the lady said it’s fine. I unfortunately am a working slob so I didn’t have the time to sort it out. I’ll see what happens at the next renewal.

    Our car licensing offices no longer send license renewals reminder so that they can charge the late penalty fee. This is what happens when a government becomes bloated and to sustain it they have to think of every single way to make money.

    Everyone’s stories make me wonder if there is such a thing as a smooth running government or is it a wildly fictitious concept like unicorns?

  24. Have you ever heard the saying that everyone likes to tell their tale of bureaucracy but no one likes to hear one?

    Fascinating to me that a high percentage of comments are stories. Reader engagement bait?

  25. erica matteson

    I had a strikingly similar experience when I last renewed my CA license. I too had a ‘lapse in insurance’ after selling a car in GA 15 years prior. Like you, I found out after calling in to inquire and found out my credit card had not processed. I went through the unending hold times with both states and the Error Processing Unit. I was, however, sent a temporary license by mail once I could prove (through a confirmation number over the phone) that all fees had been settled. I too had to call back the CA DMV to ensure the systems had been updated and hopefully would not have to endure the same experience on a future renewal date. I concur wholeheartedly with your shared prevention steps and becoming as independent and an advocate for yourself in all ways as soon as possible.

    Thanks for this post Sam, I am not alone!

  26. Done by Forty

    Sorry you had to deal with that bureaucratic nonsense, Sam.

    In the end, I suppose some of these things are unavoidable. We can create systems to guard against someone else’s incompetence, but eventually we’ll have to deal with someone else’s screw up.

  27. An experience with the beloved US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) where more important things are on the line (your spouse or family for example) will make the DMV seem like a well-oiled corporation.

    However, you’ll quickly forget that when they successfully immigrate and have to go to the DMV too!

    1. Ditto this! Dealing with USCIS was no fun. But my worst nightmare with bureaucracy was actually dealing with an international student officer in a university in Michigan.

      Long story short, the admin lady who casually but incorrectly ticked the line that stated my trip was sponsored by my home government, which it was not and I fully fund my own trip refused to change it back after I caught the error on the printed paperwork right then and there — saying she couldn’t log back in and change things on the computer once submitted.

      Due to the very different nature of self-funded or government-funded, I was going to be subject to go back to my home country for service for at least 2 years before returning to US — I had to hire an immigration lawyer who tried many times over the phone and emails to get the lady to write a correct letter (which took her more than half a year!), a clarification letter from the agency who sent me for that US trip to Michigan, and tons of paperwork on my end to prepare to appeal for the correction and therefore cancellation of the subjection to service. It look my lawyer to skip the admin lady to get to her supervisor to ask her to write a 10-line clarification letter for the mistake made by her originally.

      The whole legal process took around 8-9 months to resolve, costed me thousands of dollars, and unbelievable amount of stress, and a then newly found hatred towards some stereotypical characteristics of some Americans: careless, heartless, cowardly, unwilling to admit to mistakes, taking things and other people’s lives for granted, no respect or empathy for anybody but themselves.

      Makes me cringe everything I revisit this memory.

      1. That is absolutely ridiculous and I bet the admin just got a slap on the wrist…what does she care right? She should be liable, but that’s probably not worth the fight. I’ve heard MANY horror stories going through the immigration process, and yours seems like one of them. I’m glad you got through it ok at the end.

        1. Thanks, John! By now, I am long over it. :) Multiple incidents like this have me made a promise to myself to try my best not to get hung up on things/people I don’t care about.

          They can, and will inconvenience me and I will do everything in my power to straighten things out and move on, but I do not allow myself to be stressed out or feeling hurt for irrelevant people/things. They are not worth it.

  28. New York state is definitely one of the most aggressive about imposing these latent charges. They also have antiquated and barely functional record-keeping systems that only add to the confusion and frustration of its current or former citizens.

    Sam, interestingly, in Washington State when you sell a car both the buyer and seller are supposed to report the sale to the DMV, hopefully to avoid situations like the one you encountered. Seems like a simple solution to avoid big huge headaches. States need to empower their employees to use judgment to alleviate the needless and senseless pain they’re inflicting on their own citizens, the very citizens they’re supposed to be serving and supporting.

  29. I’m definitely not a fan of big government, but it sounds like the root cause of this problem was your failure to report the sale of a vehicle.
    It should have been much easier to resolve this issue, and there should be a statute of limitations on random fines, but the most important lesson is to make sure you handle things properly the first time.

  30. The California DMV was always crowded and inefficient, but became doubly so when illegal immigrants were allowed to get drivers licenses last year. Instead of your ordeal to renew your license, you could have walked in, told them you were undocumented, taken an easy written test in your preferred language, and gotten a new license on the spot.

    1. Hi Carole,

      Can illegal immigrants really get a driver license though? I don’t think it is possible. If it is possible, then shame on the government when there are plenty of legal citizens paying taxes who need help.

      Maybe create an illegal line and a legal line for citizens at the DMV?


      1. Yup. As of 2015, those in California sans documentation can apply for one as long as they have a “national ID” card, consular card, and some proof of California residency, such as a utility bill. Oh AB-60…

        I get the illegal immigration frustration, but I do like the incentivization of actually being able to get a license and learn to drive safely, in whatever language. If someone is going to be on the road next to you anyway, they may as well be licensed and insured.

        1. The Mexican “national ID” card is called a Matricula Consular, and as the name suggests, you can get them at any Mexican Consulate office, which many larger cities have in North America. Radio talk show host Lars Larson has one, which as I recall was a gag gift from someone else, so I don’t know how it was obtained.

      2. Yes it’s very true. Do a search for California Illegal Immigrant Drivers License. “California Assembly Bill 60 ( AB-60) is a bill passed into law that, in effect, allows illegal immigrants to the United States to apply for a California driver’s license with the CA Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).”

        American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
        As of January 2015, any eligible California resident can receive a driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status. An applicant who doesn’t have proof of …

        Orange County Register
        Jan 8, 2016 – In program’s first year, nearly half of California’s driver’s licenses went to undocumented. California issued some 605,000 new driver’s licenses last year to immigrants residing in the country illegally, surpassing expectations for the program’s first year…

        The Daily Caller
        Jan 10, 2016 – Almost 50 percent of all California driver’s licenses issued in 2015 went to illegal immigrants.

        The New York Times
        Aug 8, 2015 – When California began issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants this year, he was one of the first in line…

    2. Carole’s right. In California, they can get driver’s licenses. It creates longer lines, but it helps ensure that more drivers out there can get insured. You can’t get insurance if you don’t have a driver’s license. I’d rather have an illegal immigrant crash into me with a driver’s license and insurance than without. And I’m sure the vast majority of them were driving without licenses before.

      But if the DMV is collecting fees from all of those new licensees, shouldn’t they have the money to hire extra staff?

      It wouldn’t have solved the New York issue, though.

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