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Nadeau Proposes Crackdown on Fake License Plates

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau introduced legislation to address the proliferation of long-expired and counterfeit temporary vehicle tags, in addition to vehicles with plates that are intentionally obscured to avoid automated enforcement.  

The legislation gives the Department of Public Works and other enforcement agencies authority to immediately tow and impound cars whose owners have blatantly flouted the law by having clearly counterfeit, obscured, or long-expired plates. Under current law, even a vehicle with no license plates cannot be towed unless it has two or more unpaid tickets. 

The legislation would also empower D.C. government to proactively investigate and shut down dealers and distributors of falsified and counterfeit temporary tags, classifying that as an act of forgery. 

“It’s hard to enforce speeding or a driver running a red light if the vehicle has an un-traceable, fake, or obscured license plate,” Nadeau said. “We can’t continue to allow car owners to buy untraceable tags or allow their tags to stay expired for months or years to evade accountability. Unfortunately, experience has shown that premeditated reckless driving is often associated with vehicles that have these kinds of tags.”  

Nadeau introduced the Fraudulent Vehicle Tag Enforcement Amendment Act of 2023 last Friday, along with councilmembers Charles Allen, Christina Henderson, Matthew Frumin, Brooke Pinto, and Janeese Lewis George.  

“Together with legislation recently introduced by councilmembers Allen and Henderson, we are hitting back against dangerous driving through a comprehensive approach,” Nadeau said. “Our traffic safety enforcement systems need to hold drivers accountable for dangerous driving. We can’t do that if the most essential responsibility of identifying your vehicle is not taken seriously.” 

Allen’s proposed bill would prioritize enforcement for reckless driving. Legislation from Councilmember Henderson would assign license points to automated traffic enforcement tickets and immediately suspend licenses for drivers who are charged with vehicular deaths, hit-and-runs, or intoxicated driving. Nadeau has signed on as a co-introducer to these pieces of legislation. 

A task force convened by the Mayor in 2022 to come up with strategies for enforcement of expired and counterfeit temporary tags resulted in emergency rulemaking by the executive branch that stated: “fraudulent or counterfeit vehicle identification tags have been found to be involved in the commission of violent crimes, reckless driving, and the evasion of the District’s traffic laws and regulations, thus, in turn, posing a substantial risk to public safety and the health and welfare of District residents and visitors.” However, the emergency rules have since expired and other task force recommendations were dropped completely. 

The bill would also require the Mayor to maintain a directory to help enforcement agencies identify legitimate and fraudulent tags from around the country, requiring for enforcement agencies what is already expected of bars. 

The legislation will be referred to a committee or committees for consideration after the Council returns from recess in mid-September. 

Read the full text of the legislation

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Councilmember Nadeau sent the following letter to the City Administrator and the Director of the Office of Unified Communications on Tuesday to express her deep concern over the 911 dispatch center's ongoing failure to dispatch assistance where it is needed. She called the failures "alarming and unacceptable."

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