A major safety loophole that allowed unsafe cars to get temporary license plates has been closed by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
NBC 5 Investigates exposed the problem first last week. Cars that could not pass a state safety inspection were still able to get 30-day temporary license plates because the DMV was not requiring offices that issue those plates to verify vehicle safety and emissions inspections.
Brandon Denton learned of the change in DMV policy Tuesday when he arrived at the Dallas County Tax Office hoping to get a 30-day permit but was told he had to get a state inspection first.
“I got here trying to get in and out and now I have to go get an inspection. So, it makes it a little tough today,” Denton told NBC 5 Investigates.
The TxDMV issued new guidance to tax offices Monday requiring people applying for 30-day permits to show proof of a passing vehicle inspection and to fill out an application that will give the TxDMV more information about who is applying for the permit.
“It’s a much better system, number one, we have a record now, we know exactly who applied what they're looking for and that they have the proper documents with them,” said John Ames the Dallas County Tax Assessor-Collector.
Ames said his office and other tax offices across the state were previously unable to deny 30-day permits to drivers who did not have a valid inspection until the DMV updated its guidance to tax offices this week.
NBC 5 Investigates
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NBC 5 Investigates has learned even the DMV’s own offices did not require proof of inspection until recently. A department spokesperson told us that the policy just changed at the agency’s service centers last week.
Thirty-day permits have become a growing focus of concern for some law enforcement officials, who believe that more people have been exploiting the inspection loophole in order to get tags for unsafe cars that could not pass state inspection.
The DMV has recently shut down more car dealers caught selling fraudulent 60-day temporary plates for profit. As that has happened, officers with a special unit that investigates license plate fraud in Austin told NBC 5 Investigates they have seen more cars with 30-day permits that would not pass inspection. Some of those cars previously had tags issued by dealers caught selling tags, officials said, leading them to suspect people were turning to 30-day permits as a backdoor to register unsafe cars.
Last week, NBC 5 Investigates questioned a member of the TxDMV’s board of directors, Manny Ramirez, who promised the agency would close the loophole.
“I think every time that we find a loophole, we have to do everything in our power to shut it down,” Ramirez said.
For Brandon Denton, the new TxDMV policy means one more hoop to jump through before getting a tag for his truck but he said he understands completely why the additional security measures are needed.
“If we have to do a little more of another step for safety or security for the community, it's all worth it at the end of the day,” Denton said.
NBC 5 Investigates asked the TxDMV why it decided to close the loophole now.
TxDMV spokesman Adam Shaivitz told NBC 5 Investigates, “The circumstances leading to the change in policy were identified earlier in the year and have been under legal review, resulting in the current policy."
The TxDMV Board is expected to meet again in Austin on Thursday to discuss efforts to implement a litany of new security measures surrounding temporary tags.
A months-long NBC 5 investigation has exposed major security flaws at the TxDMV that allowed people to obtain car dealer licenses for the purpose of selling massive numbers of black market temporary tags.
Police said some of those fraudulent tags are then placed on vehicles involved in committing other crimes because the fraudulent tags make it harder for investigators to identify the owner of the vehicle.
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