10/06/2011 08:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2011

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb: D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray Should Investigate Jailed Drivers

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) sent a letter to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on Thursday, asking Gray to investigate reports that the city is jailing drivers whose vehicle registrations have expired, and saying there "is absolutely no justification for jailing citizens whose only offense is an expired tag."

Dear Mayor Gray:

Recent news reports indicate that the Washington Metropolitan Police Department is incarcerating citizens for failing to update their vehicle registration tags on time.

While drivers should be held accountable for such minor infractions, there is absolutely no justification for jailing citizens whose only offense is an expired tag. If true, I hope you will agree that this is a waste of the limited financial resources which the District should be directing toward fighting serious crime.

AAA, the nation's largest motor club and travel organization, called the District’s policy “ridiculous” and noted that surrounding jurisdictions do not arrest drivers in such cases.

I ask that you review this matter promptly.


Jim Webb
U.S. Senator

The letter came in response to a Fox News report detailing some of the arrests, which include a Maryland mother picking up her child from school and a D.C. resident driving to meet his girlfriend.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier told WTOP's Ask the Chief Program that arrests for expired registrations are rare. "In most cases, officers will take the tags, impound the vehicle, and then the owner has to come back and show proof of registration -- it is a discretionary arrest," she said. "But it is a law that is on the books and sometimes is enforced."

"In most other jurisdictions, including Virginia and Maryland," John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said to Fox, "you would not be arrested for this. And this is why [it's] so shocking and it sends chills up the spines of motorists everywhere, because we're in and out of all the jurisdictions all of the time."