Wilson measure targets vehicle-license fraud in Clark County

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, has introduced legislation to tackle the pervasive vehicle-license fraud problem in Clark County. The Washington State Patrol estimates there are over 20,000 vehicles in Clark County alone that are illegally licensed in Oregon or other states, causing the state to lose out on over $16 million annually due to this fraudulent activity.

“Those cars are registered in Oregon for the sole purpose of evading Washington taxes and registration fees,” said Wilson, noting that both Vancouver and Battle Ground have identified vehicle-license fraud as a serious problem they would like to see addressed.

Senate Bill 6293, which received a public hearing Tuesday afternoon in the Senate Transportation Committee, would allow the county to set up a deferred prosecution program for people who receive a citation for failing to legally register a vehicle, vessel or aircraft.

Wilson said the Washington State Patrol has only one License Fraud Investigative Unit, staffed by one trooper and a small team of citizen volunteers.

“But they don’t have the money or the manpower to aggressively enforce the law,” Wilson said. “The current fine for failing to register a vehicle in Washington is over $1,500. Troopers are often reluctant to issue it and instead give out warnings, which are routinely ignored.

“I feel this approach will give law enforcement and prosecutors more tools to ensure compliance with the law, and remove their reluctance to issue such a steep fine. Hopefully this will also encourage people to get their vehicles properly registered and save themselves a thousand bucks,” Wilson added.

Under the proposed deferred prosecution program, if a person is issued the citation, they can go to court, pay a $500 fine, demonstrate proof that they have legally registered their vehicle and switched over their driver’s license, and then the citation can be dismissed. If a person fails to comply with the conditions of the deferred prosecution program within 90 days of the citation, then prosecutors must seek the full $1,500 penalty.