Since You Asked: Are Marysville police still using cars without displaying plates?
Q: Has the Marysville Police Department corrected the supposed vehicle-code violation reported by the Yuba County grand jury last year?
A: Well, strictly speaking, no, but don't get too excited.
It's not as black-and-white an issue as the 2010-11 Yuba County grand jury's final report made it sound, according to police Chief Wally Fullerton.
The grand jury's report correctly states that the Marysville Police Department was operating at least one vehicle without displaying license plates and registration stickers.
The report said the department "ought to comply with all the laws and regulations" that Marysville residents are bound by "to promote a sense of fairness to the public."
However, in this particular case, the report is wrong when it says the police are breaking the law by driving without those stickers, Fullerton said.
It's a bit complicated and technical, but stay with us.
"Actually, it's convoluted mess," Fullerton said.
The police vehicles in question are exempt from that law and, no, it's not because they are police cars. It's because certain vehicles are allowed to operate legally without stickers and plates while the Department of Motor Vehicles processes their paperwork. That includes cars with confidential plates in which ownership has changed hands, which is what has occurred in Marysville.
The grand jury was referring to section 5202 of the state vehicle code, which says cars must have license plates and current registration stickers to operate on the street.
But here's the rub: The very next section of the code, 5203, states, "This chapter does not apply to plates which (the DMV) pursuant to law has ordered to be surrendered, transferred to another vehicle or removed."
Attempts to reach former grand jurors were not successful.
Marysville frequently buys police cars used to save a substantial amount of money, and those used cars come from other departments with confidential plates.
"Confidential plates must be re turned to the DMV in Sacramento specifically. We can't even take them to the local office; it has to be done in Sacramento," Fullerton said.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, Sacramento bureaucracy can take a lot longer to work through than is convenient. However, Fullerton said, while the transfer works through the DMV's system, the department can operate those vehicles.
In his response to the grand jury last year, Fullerton specifically told the judge the changes recommended by the grand jury "will not be implemented because they are not warranted."
The formal letter was sent June 24, 2011. The department has never received a response.
"The DMV has its own procedures and they will not issue temporary permits or plates for those vehicles," Fullerton explained.
The police chief also said he tried to give this information to the grand jury. "And they ignored it," he said.
Fullerton said he hopes to put the issue to bed quickly so his department can move on to bigger issues.
"It's people making a mountain out of a mole hill, and this is really a minor subject that just keeps coming up," Fullerton said.
Since You Asked is published on Mondays. Send questions to reporter Rob Parsons at the Appeal-Democrat, 1530 Ellis Lake Drive, Marysville, CA 95901, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 749-4785.