Neighborhood Watch

By Chuck Foster

This edition’s contribution on the topic of Neighborhood Watch is a little tangential. However, the hope is that it is helpful given the current state of emergency, which was in effect when this article was written.

The Lakeport Board recently published updated rules that apply to parking in the cluster. With that information in mind, you may be noticing “violations” in the common parking spaces in the form of expired license plates and vehicle safety inspections. However, looks can be deceiving.

Why do we care about expired vehicle “credentials?” It can indicate an abandoned or stolen vehicle, a vehicle that does not belong to a resident, an owner who has suffered a medical crisis or death, or simply a resident who has knowingly or unknowingly neglected to fulfill their obligations under law. 

Does the local police department have any authority with regard to parking violations? Because Lakeport Cluster is private property, the police have limited authority. By law, a police officer has the authority, without permission, to enter the property to enforce fire lane violations (where proper signage and markings exist) and the unauthorized use of parking spaces reserved for the disabled. The police have no further authority unless given written permission to enforce expired license plates and inspections. The police will not initiate the towing of a vehicle for a parking violation on private property.       

A new wrinkle in enforcement was created on March 17, 2020, when Governor Northam started issuing a series of “Executive Directives” that extended the expiration dates for driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations (temporary and permanent license plates), and safety inspections. In addition, the requirement to register a vehicle within thirty days of establishing residency was suspended.   

The safety inspection process is managed by the Virginia State Police (VSP). Executive Directive 8 directs the VSP to extend expiration dates until July 31, 2020. In other words, if the window sticker displays any month prior to July, the VSP would not issue a citation until after that date. However, the directive applies only to the VSP. Local police departments, such as Fairfax County or the Town of Herndon, were not obligated to follow the directive. Inspection stations have remained open throughout the state of emergency. If you are concerned about infection risk by turning your vehicle over to an inspector, the VSP offers a “modified” inspection in which you can remain in your vehicle throughout the inspection. Currently, the South Lakes Sunoco does not offer the modified inspection, but the North Point Sunoco does.

The vehicle registration process (license plates) is managed by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Registrations have been extended twice in recognition of the delays associated with titling and/or registering a vehicle if it is not possible to process a transaction online (e.g., out-of-state title and transfer of plates). Currently, the earliest available appointments with the DMV are approximately two months in the future.

Also, any registration that expires prior to July 31, 2020, has been extended 90 days beyond the expiration date, not to extend beyond October 31, 2020. However, vehicle owners will not be issued new license plate stickers to reflect an extension. The extension will be noted in the DMV record for use by law enforcement and tow companies. If you deem a vehicle to be suspicious and summon the police, the responding officer will have access to updated DMV records, which are confidential.

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