Thieves pay for stolen license plates, registration stickers
City of Brookfield reports several such thefts in July
Registration stickers and license plates are being ripped off and sold on the black market, creating a headache for drivers and a more costly penalty for thieves who illegally display them.
About half a dozen drivers in the city of Brookfield reported having missing license plates or stickers in July. Some thieves peel the stickers off, others cut off the corner or just take the entire plate. The crime is not new, and the trend has increased since the annual registration fee increase years ago.
Fine costs more than registration
The $75 annual vehicle registration fee paid to the Department of Motor Vehicles covers registration for one year and a sticker that shows police your car is clean, but the fine for being caught with a stolen sticker or plate is almost double that amount in some places.
Town of Brookfield police Lt. David Mironischen said the town hasn't had any reports of thefts of plates and stickers recently, but the department has issued several citations to drivers caught cruising through the town with stickers or plates that don't belong to them.
Offenders may be able to get away with a license plate that appears to be valid with a stolen sticker during normal driving trips, but don't get far once they are pulled over for a traffic offense. Town officers issued 11 citations worth $151.80 for altering registration plate or sticker in 2012, and have issued four so far this year.
"If the driver stopped is found to be in possession of a stolen license plate, they could possibly be arrested or cited for possession/receiving stolen property," Mironischen said. "The difficult thing is that we have to prove the elements of that statute, which are that the defendant intentionally received or concealed the license plate and that the defendant knew or believed that the license plate was stolen. Drivers often indicate that they didn't know the plate was stolen or that they were borrowing the car from a friend, or it's another family member's car, etc."
Officers confiscate the stolen plate and the jurisdiction it was taken from usually adivses to destroy the plate, and stickers are immediately confiscated and thrown away, Mironischen said.
Elm Grove police Lt. Jason Hennen said the department issued two citations for displaying false evidence of registration in 2012.
Requests to the city of Brookfield were not fulfilled by press deadline.
How to replace plates and stickers
Fortunately, victims don't have to pay another $75 for a new pair of plates. The fee for a replacement license plates, lost or stolen, is $9 in person and there is no fee for replacement stickers, said Mark Sier, supervisor in the vehicle records section of the DMV. Annual figures on replacement license plates and stickers were not available. Plates and stickers should be replaced immediately to avoid being penalized for improper display of vehicle registration.
Drivers are advised to use a razor blade to carefully slice the sticker on the plate, making it harder to peel off. Stolen license plates should be reported immediately, as perpetrators are known to run red lights, blow through toll booths or commit other violations with immunity.
Drivers can request a duplicate or replacement license plate sticker by contacting the Bureau of Vehicle Services by calling (608) 266-1466. Drivers will need to identify information about the vehicle, including year and make and vehicle identification number.
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