One day you decide to cruise through southern California on your way to Disneyland, in your Cadillac with longhorns affixed to the grill. You get pulled over because the California Highway Patrol thought you were an animal traveling at high rates of speed on the freeway. The officer asks for your license and registration. Groveling, you grab your driver’s license from your snakeskin boot, where you keep it next to your bowie knife , and you also find your Texas car registration in the glove box and show it to him.
The officer discovers you’re vehicle is not a large bull escaped from the rodeo, but since he had probable cause to pull you over, he decides to cite you with Vehicle Code 4000(a)(1) – failure to provide proof of valid registration, even though your car was validly registered! He also makes an offhand comment about how wearing snakeskin boots that look that good should be a crime, before speeding off on his motorcycle to find someone else to harass.
Now, I love law enforcement. If it weren’t for cops, highway patrol, etc., our society would be complete anarchy. We need them to keep order and keep our society running smoothly. But some cops can be lame, or lazy, or both, and not bother to ascertain whether you actually committed the charge you were cited with. Instead, they issue you the citation, then leave it up to you to either pay it or fight it. Not fun.
Probably in most cases, people who are only visiting California do not have to get their cars registered in California. But sometimes you’re not really visiting California, and you’re not really staying here either, so it gets a little muddy. Here are the basic rules that apply:
1. Primary Use: If your vehicle is “primarily used” on California highways, then it must be registered in California. “Primary use” means your vehicle is operated in California more than any other individual state, during the registration period in question. (See VC 4000.4)
2. Established Residence or Gainful Employment: If the owner of the vehicle has either established residence in, or has achieved gainful employment in California (whichever occurs first), then the vehicle must be registered here within 20 days. (See VC 6700)
3. Established Business: Any nonresident (which includes a nonresident corporation), with an established business in California and regularly using a vehicle here, must immediately register the vehicle. (See VC 6702)
As always, make sure to consult an attorney before making any decisions about how to fight a traffic ticket for invalid registration. If you’d like to speak with me about your case, you can call me at 310-200-4519, email me at email@example.com, or contact me through my website.