Friday, July 1, 2011

Signs at the DMV

I spent some time today waiting at the DMV.
It is a veritable bastion of the rule of law, even in Illinois.

There is a sign in the queue informing customers that it is against the law to swear at or take a hostile tone with a DMV employee.

There are a dozen signs of varying sizes telling us that they accept Mastercard, Discover and American Express (for an extra fee, of course) by NOT VISA.   I’m guessing it has something to do with Bank of America refusing to continue to issue travel credit cards to our deadbeat state. 

I can’t say I blame Bank of America for pulling the plug. 

But DMV could care less if they inconvenience us.  They are the State.

There is a big sign over by the road test waiting area.  It informs us that it is a class 2 felony to attempt to bribe an examiner.  You get 3-7 years in jail plus a $25,000 fine.

Now that’s a serious consequence, but not cruel and unusual.  After all, the Willis tragedy was the result of paying cash to pass a CDL.  It eventually led to Governor George Ryan going to prison.

There is another sign warning you that if you apply for a Drivers License using fake documents or documents that belong to someone else, you have committed perjury.  That is a class 4 felony and gets you 1-3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.

If you violate the Identification Card Act, you could spend a year in jail and pay $2,500.  Using a fake ID gets you the same.  Second offenses are also a year in jail and a $25,000 fine.  Any fraudulent activity carries a $500 minimum. 

Sounds pretty tough, right?  Now and then someone will try to pass themselves off to the cops as someone else, either with their ID or by claiming they don’t have docs on them and spouting off someone else's name and address.  They get caught.

Most common is driving without any license at all, followed by using a fake one purchased at the corner photo studio in Little Village.

You have to wonder why we are in such a mess with all these tough laws to protect us.

Convictions, perhaps?  If you don’t get convicted, nothing really happens to you.  Are the judges soft?  Or are the jails full?  Or are the lawyers that good?

And I couldn’t help but think of similar signs in Oregon and Washington DMV offices.  Surely what Jose Antonio Vargas did would violate state laws in both states.  I wonder if he will be prosecuted.  (Note that his violations have nothing to do with federal immigration laws or states’ rights arguments.)

I guess that just illustrates that states are great at collecting fees and telling you what line to stand in, but not so great when it comes to enforcing their own laws.

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