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Old 10-28-2003, 07:13 AM   #1
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Claim: A man whose car bore personalized license plates reading 'NO PLATE' received notices for thousands of unpaid parking tickets.

Status: True.

Origins: This episode began in 1979, when a Los Angeles man named Robert Barbour sent in an application to the Department of Motor Vehicles requesting personalized license plates for his car. The DMV form asked applicants to list three choices in case one or two of their desired selections had already been assigned. Barbour, a sailing enthusiast, wrote down "SAILING" and "BOATING" as his first two choices; when he couldn't think of a third option, he wrote "NO PLATE," meaning that if neither of his two choices was available, he did not want personalized plates. "BOATING" and "SAILING" had indeed already been assigned, and the DMV, following instructions literally, send Barbour license plates reading "NO PLATE." Barbour was not thrilled that the DMV had misunderstood his intent, but he eventually opted to keep the plates because of their uniqueness.

Four weeks later he received his first notice for an overdue parking fine, from faraway San Francisco, and within days he began receiving dozens of overdue notices from all over the state on a daily basis. Why? Because when law enforcement officers ticketed illegally parked cars that bore no license plates, they had been writing "NO PLATE" in the license plate field. Now that Barbour had plates bearing that phrase, the DMV computers were matching every unpaid citation issued to a car with missing plates to him.

Barbour received about 2,500 notices over the next several months. He alerted the DMV to the problem, and they responded in a typically bureaucratic way by instructing him to change his license plates. But Barbour had grown too fond of his plates by then to want to change them, so he instead began mailing out a form letter in response to each citation. That method usually worked, although occasionally he had to appear before a judge and demonstrate that the car described on the citation was not his.

A couple of years later, the DMV finally caught on and sent a notice to law enforcement agencies requesting that they use the word NONE rather than NO PLATE to indicate a cited vehicle was missing its plates. This change slowed the flow of overdue notices Barbour received to a trickle, about five or six a month, but it also had an unintended side effect: Officers sometimes wrote MISSING instead of NONE to indicate cars with missing license plates, and suddenly a man named Andrew Burg in Marina del Rey started receiving parking tickets from places he hadn't visited either. Burg, of course, was the owner of a car with personalized plates reading "MISSING."
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Old 10-28-2003, 10:00 AM   #2
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man thats gotta suck.
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Old 10-28-2003, 03:26 PM   #3
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Thats classic.. I should've thought of gettin plates like those.. minus the tickets..
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