North Smithfield police cracking down on out-of-state vehicle registrations

North Smithfield police cracking down on out-of-state vehicle registrations

Other communities expected to follow lead of Woonsocket, North Smithfield

NORTH SMITHFIELD – North Smithfield police issued citations last Wednesday, June 6, to 18 vehicle owners who parked their cars in town for more than 30 days without a Rhode Island registration, the latest move in an effort to crack down on residents who avoid motor vehicle taxes by registering their vehicles out of state.

North Smithfield is the second municipality in three months to pursue action against the owners of out-of-state registered vehicles. In April, Woonsocket cited 54 vehicle owners for the same offense.

According to Captain Stephen Riccitelli of the North Smithfield Police, the department’s actions were in keeping with Rhode Island General Law 31-7-1(b), which states any resident vehicle owner who parks or garages their vehicle overnight in the state for more than 30 days must register the vehicle in Rhode Island or face a $500 fine. The statute also gives local law enforcement the authority to enforce the requirement.

“This was done as a result of a request received from Councilors Zwolenski and O’Hara,” said Riccitelli. “They had expressed their concerns at several Town Council meetings and meetings that they had with other town officials.”

Last May, the Town Council voted to begin investigating ways to enforce the state law amid rising concerns of residents avoiding paying motor vehicle taxes by keeping their cars registered in another state. Initial efforts focused on the town’s larger housing complexes, but letters sent to notify tenants of the state law had limited success.

Then, earlier this year, police began a town-wide effort to identify violators parked within the town for an extended time. Over a period of 45 days, officers made nightly observations of out-of-state vehicles and recorded the information in a spreadsheet. Once a vehicle hit 31 days, whether consecutive or not, it could be considered in violation of the statute.

“What we did is allowed for a period of 45 days. It wasn’t until we hit the 45th day of monitoring those vehicles that potentially were in violation did we start to go back and really parse the information out and determine which vehicles were over the 30 days,” Riccitelli explained. “Once we compiled all the information, it took us about a week or so to parse it all out.”

The method was similar to the one used by Woonsocket officers in February and March. According to Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Oates, the investigation, led by Lt. Mark Cabral and Lt. Thomas Calouro, took place over a period greater than 30 days and identified 54 violations.

“Besides a tax issue, it’s a public safety concern,” he said. “People are supposed to notify the registry within 10 days of a move from one state to another. If you’re involved in a crime or an incident and someone gets the license plate, we’re going to Blackstone, Mass., instead of where you actually house the vehicle.”

Oates said a majority of the violations involved vehicles registered in Massachusetts, though some were registered to other states, including Maine. Of the 54 vehicle owners cited, 17 pleaded guilty in Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal on May 17, with five appearing in court having since registered their vehicles in Rhode Island, nine scheduled to appear at a later date and the remainder guilty by default for failing to appear. While the statute allows a fine of up to $500, Oates said the judge only chose to impose a $95 fine on those who pleaded guilty.

Both Oates and Riccitelli said they believed a majority of those cited were aware of the violation, with Oates explaining some Woonsocket residents had taken out post office boxes in Massachusetts to continue registering their vehicles out of state. The crackdown comes about a year into the state’s six-year plan to reduce and eventually eliminate its motor vehicle tax.

“It’s all about paying your fair share. If they’re not paying their share of taxes, they’re still using the city services. It’s not fair to people who are paying their taxes,” said Oates.

Riccitelli said the investigation is ongoing and police continue to monitor out-of-state vehicles, while Oates said he expects other towns to follow suit within the next several months.

“This is really just the first wave of citations to go out, and there’ll definitely be more to follow in the next few weeks,” said Riccitelli.

Comments

It would be nice if the NSPD would spend more time CRACKING down on speeders on Saint Paul St. rather than going after people that are NOT moving @ 50MPH in a 35MPH speed zone ! Time after time I complain and it falls on DEAF ears ! My TAX $$$$$$ at work ! HA!

I feel for you! I’ve walked in your shoes for almost 10 years and I’ve come to realize that the more that we complain, the less get’s done! It is not any getting better either It is only getting worse and no one in this Town cares … especially not the Town Administrator or the Town Council President.

Why is it that we have 24 cops with one police chief in the NSPD along with 3 vacancies and nothing seems to get done --- especially when it pertains to enforcing the speed limits on the roads in this Town? Instead of having the police on the roads where they belong, you have sergeants and lieutenants answering phones on all shifts leaving the Town with only 2 officers on the roads on all shifts on every day of the week! My tax dollars! They need to bring back civilian dispatchers at ½ the cost of what one cop makes in order to answer phones and dispatch calls.

Little that people know and that is that all someone has to do is register their vehicle in their parents name and then there is nothing that the NSPD can do about it! If the driver of such vehicle resides in the Town and is stopped, all he or she has to do is say that it is his or her parents vehicle and the cops cannot do anything.

The Town Administrator and the Town Council President should not be so free with their spending habits because we. the people of this Town are tapped out and cannot afford their practices.

So in summation, perhaps the midnight detective work done on Sunday’s by Zwolenski and O’Hare should be focused of more important issues instead of trying to right a wrong that they will never win! I know this for a fact because remember Gary and remember John, there are plenty of ways to beat the system and get away with it!

Out Smart, Out Win & Out Play

How is the residency and cars handled for snowbirds in RI who have dual-residencies.??...so if they live in Florida for example, own homes in RI and Florida, will you cite them if they have Fla plates? Is there temporary plate issued? How exactly is THAT handled, as many business ppl and retired have that situation. Curious how that is handled so no illegalities occur and everything is fair. Thank you.

Not so fast. If your car is registered in your parents name, then why is it parked at YOUR home/apt EVERY night? My apt complex has half of it`s residents with out of state plates, some for YEARS. I applaud the efforts of the police, why is it such a big deal to do the right thing, and register your vehicle where you live?

Case scenario … professional female lives with her boyfriend in North Smithfield. This professional female owns a waterfront condo in Boston. The same professional female has a MA drivers license and her vehicle is insured and registered in the Commonwealth of MA due to the fact that is where she lives. She is also on the tax rolls for paying taxes in Boston as well.

Keep in mind, the taxes on her BMW is cheaper in Boston then they would be in North Smithfield … so what’s a professional female to do?

So if this professional female works 3 days a week in Boston and stays at her water front condo for those 3 days a week, where does she live or what is considered her permanent residence … is it in Boston where she works and parks the vehicle 3 nights a week (in a garage)and pays taxes on said vehicle or is it in North Smithfield where she only spends 4 nights a week as a guest/girlfriend?
Per RIGL 31-7-1(b) ... This law is so ambiguous that there are too many loop holes for this Town or any other Town to win every case. I would suggest that someone check Westlaw and see that this law was made to be broken and challenged!

Hey Detective Zwolenski & O’Hare … perhaps you guys should start patrolling the streets in North Smithfield on Sunday nights with radar guns and compiling a list of speeding violators who break the law! Perhaps you will have better luck catching people who break the law!

Out Smart, Out Win & Out Play!

Why is it that the people that SPEED all the time on the street that I live trying to KILL me or any member of my family trying to leave my home "THE RIGHT THING" ? Speed limits are SPEED limits for a reason ! If you think that doing 50mph in a 35mph zone is the "RIGHT THING" you are SADLY MISTAKEN ! WE have been dealing with this for OVER 30 years !!!!!!!!!!!!