Kevin Hunt: One Stolen Car, Four Years Of Fines, Police Stops, DMV Frustration
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In a mind-bending convolution of events, the car’s theft and eventual recovery combined with questions of continuous insurance coverage on it have left Bauer, by her estimation, with:
>> Two court appearances and fees totaling $235.
>> A $117 ticket fine for driving an unregistered car.
>> A $200 insurance fine.
>> Two stops by West Hartford police and one by Hartford police – all three suspecting she was driving an unregistered or stolen car.
>> Three months without driving privileges, her registration and license suspended.
>> Countless hours visiting, consulting and arguing with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
>> Repeated DMV customer-service lapses, including a misplaced fine payment and twice being put on hold for more than 45 minutes before being cut off.
The Bottom Line has been along for the ride since mid-January, just after Bauer was stopped by West Hartford police who said her car, the recovered Dodge Neon, was still unregistered.
“At this point,” she says, “I am fairly traumatized by cops, cruisers and flashing lights.”
And maybe by DMV, too.
The Dodge Neon was left in the Walgreens parking lot on Farmington Avenue in Hartford two days after the theft back in 2008. Police said that Walgreens then had the car towed to Caron Auto Works in South Windsor. It sat there, unknown to Bauer, for two weeks until she received a letter from Caron.
Bauer faults the West Hartford police for not checking its stolen-car list before it was towed to South Windsor, complicating the Neon’s recovery. She says the police told her it mistakenly reported the car as a “trespass” instead of “recovered stolen.” But Sgt. Donald Melanson of the West Hartford Police Department says it was a private tow job requested by Walgreens, so police were unaware of it initially.
Bauer, assuming the car was gone forever, quickly bought a replacement. She removed insurance coverage from the stolen Dodge Neon, transferring it to the new car.
“It was the end of the school year,” says Bauer, a now-retired special education teacher and program director, “and I really needed to be able to drive to my place of employment at non-standard times.”
After the Dodge Neon resurfaced, Bauer registered it again with DMV in fall 2008. She provided documents related to the car theft after DMV questioned whether the Neon had continuous insurance coverage. Apparently satisfied, DMV registered the car. Yet Hartford police stopped Bauer in late 2009, the Neon still on its stolen-vehicle list.
In 2010, when Bauer sought to renew the registration, DMV again targeted the May-June 2008 period, again asking for more documentation related to the car theft. Bauer says she provided it, with the registration fee. DMV acknowledged payment of the registration fee but declined to register the car because of an insurance compliance issue. Bauer returned to DMV to make the case that the car had been continuously insured, but left without a resolution.