ID 55047532 © Carolyn Franks |

BRENNAN: How Do We Fix the Expired Tag Epidemic in Missouri

Charlie Brennan
July 25, 2018 - 3:55 pm

As we have already discussed in this space, expired tags are on the rise in Missouri since lawmakers in 2015 sharply reduced penalties for driving without a license, driving with expired plates, and driving without insurance.  In short, an offending motorist can only be fined $225 and cannot be sent to jail. 

The maximum $225 fine is cheaper than the insurance, property taxes and sales taxes required to register a vehicle.  So, it’s less expensive to break the law than to comply with it.

The result?  Scofflaws are not even showing up in court and therefore police are not bothering to cite violators.  Schools and parks are getting less money and, watch out, your neighbor is driving without insurance. 


St. Louis Alderperson Cara Spencer says it has become a major issue in the neighborhoods she represents.  “You can’t insure an unlicensed vehicle and that’s a real danger to other motorists and pedestrians,” she said today on my radio show.

State Representative Donna Baringer (D-St. Louis) is also  on top of this.  She told our listeners today she’s talked to judges as well as people who work in the Department of Revenue, Public Safety, car dealerships, and credit unions.

She thinks the offenders generally fit into one of two categories: they are poor or they are negligent.  The poor can’t afford to register and the negligent don’t care.

Baringer thinks we need to steer people to credit unions which educate people on how much car they can afford.  She also says credit unions will roll the cost of insurance into the monthly car payment.  That should prevent people from avoiding car insurance.  After all, if payments aren’t made, the car will be repossessed by the credit union.

Baringer also has a plan for insurance companies to “ding” authorities when someone’s insurance is cancelled.  This would cost at least $4 Million to set up, she says. 

She also recommends we waive all fines except court fees for low-income individuals who register their cars in a timely manner after being cited.  We’ll also have to have a strong penalty, or incentive, for people--poor or negligent-- who fail to comply.

So, I have four suggestions to fix up this mess:

  1. Missouri should collect sales tax at auto dealerships.Currently, Missouri motorists take possession of their cars at the dealership, get a temporary tag and are required to pay the sales tax within 30 days in order to get a metal plate.People are obviously avoiding the sales tax and just driving around on their temporary tags or no plates at all.
  2. We should also place a boot on cars with no plates or expired tags beyond 60 days.To get the car back, the car would have to be registered--all fines, taxes, insurance paid—and free of fines.In New York City, a boot costs $159, the Sheriff Execution fee is $89, and the Tow Fee (if applicable) is $135.Plus, New Yorkers have to pay off their tickets to get their cars back.
  3. Since sales taxes are so high (10% or more), we need to drop the sales tax for the poor.
  4. Since we need to get poor people to work, residential and business tax breaks would only be available to housing and businesses within ¼ mile of a Metrolink stop.This would mean fewer poor people would need cars

As always, I appreciate your feedback.  You can contact  me on Twitter (@charliekmox), email ( and phone (314-444-1827).