1.5 million private CA cars have ticket-proof confidential licence plates?

Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax FightersRichard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters 6 Comments


Here’s a widespread California scandal that’s flown beneath the (police) radar for decades. An astonishing 1.5 million vehicles in California have “confidential” license plates — supposedly to keep the bad guys from knowing who the driver is.  Initially the program proposed in 1978 was sold as necessary to protect primarily undercover police officers.  But like any government program, this privileged group quickly metastasized and grew, as additional protected groups (including their families) were added.

Why is that a problem, you ask?  It can put the drivers above the law.

For instance, when such a vehicle carrying only one person drives in the HOV lane, they are exempt from paying tolls — or fines.  Not LEGALLY, but there’s no easy way to trace the license plate.  The story below goes into this is great detail.  Even if they are run to ground by a diligent effort, the fine can be a little as 12 cents per violation.  Egad!

Moreover, when a cop pulls over such a car (speeding, DUI, rolling stop — whatever), a quick electronic license plate check will inform the officer that the miscreant is one of the confidential license class — “one of theirs” — part of a huge protected class of citizens that is in some tangential way involved in law enforcement.  Including politicians!  Odds are, no ticket will be issued.

I first read about this in chapter one of  Steven Greenhut’s excellent book PLUNDER!  I wrongly assumed that the book’s exposure of this widespread abuse would itself be enough to rein in these abuses.   But it was WAY back in 2009 — I was much younger and innocent in those days.

Here’s a list of all the groups that originally got protected status when the law finally passed in 1978.  It’s expanded since then:

Dozens of job classifications are eligible for the DMV’s confidential address program. The idea was originally designed to protect the addresses of police officers and others with sensitive jobs but it has expanded legislatively to 1.5 million people. A byproduct is that a small group of scofflaws in the program take advantage of the virtual license plate anonymity and zip through bridge toll plazas without paying, knowing that they are difficult to track down, and thus can escape the toll and fine.

The original list of those eligible for confidential plates, circa 1978:

  • California attorney general
  • State public defender
  • State legislators
  • Judges and court commissioners
  • County district attorneys
  • County public defenders
  • Attorneys working for the state Justice Department, the office of the state public defender, or a county district attorney or public defender
  • Active or retired peace officers
  • Spouses and children of any of the above

Added since 1978 through legislation:

  • City attorneys and any attorney working for a city attorney who submits verification that he or she is routinely in personal contact with persons investigated for, charged with or convicted of crimes
  • Nonsworn police dispatchers
  • Child abuse investigators or social workers working in child protective services
  • Most employees of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Facilities or the Prison Industry Authority
  • Nonsworn employees of a city police department; a county sheriff’s office; the California Highway Patrol; a federal, state or local detention facility; or a local juvenile hall, camp, ranch or home, who submits verification that he or she routinely controls or supervises inmates or is required to have a prisoner in his or her care or custody
  • County counsels assigned to child abuse cases
  • Investigators working for the state Justice Department, a county district attorney or a county public defender
  • City council members
  • County supervisors
  • Federal prosecutors and criminal investigators
  • Service rangers working in California
  • Active or retired city parking enforcement officers
  • Trial court employees
  • County psychiatric social workers
  • Police or sheriff’s department workers designated by their chief or sheriff as “being in a sensitive position”
  • DMV licensing registration examiners
  • CHP motor carrier specialists
  • Museum security officers and supervising museum security officers
  • Spouses or children of any of the above, regardless of where the spouse or child lives
  • Surviving spouses or children of peace officers who died in the line of duty, for three years after the officer’s death

Here’s the link for the article.  To read the full piece, click on it.


Toll scofflaws get free ride with confidential license plates
By Thomas Peele and Josh Richman

Contra Costa Times

For 18 months Scofflaw No. 593 blew through FasTrak toll plazas at two Bay Area bridges almost every day and never paid up.

Scofflaw No. 593 — named for the random number assigned to the anonymous driver in regional toll reports — was able to do this because the driver was part of a largely outmoded program that prevents certain government employees’ addresses from being traced through their license plates. Because they can’t easily be traced, some are abusing the system by intentionally zipping through FasTrak lanes without an electronic toll account.

In all, 1.5 million government employees, elected officials and their families have the so-called “confidential address” plates, part of a program started in 1978 to protect police and others involved in law enforcement from being tracked to their homes by criminals.

Those drivers could be police officers, an officer’s spouse or child, judges, prison guards, child abuse investigators, state legislators or even museum guards.

Who are they specifically?

Don’t ask. It’s a secret, even when laws get broken.

Public records show Scofflaw No. 593 dodged a bridge toll — $4 at the time — 467 times in 18 months, sometimes twice in the same day. That’s $1,868 in unpaid tolls. If the average citizen did this once, a ticket would soon arrive in his or her mailbox ordering payment of the skipped toll plus a $25 fine, though the fine would be waived if the driver signed up for FasTrak.

And Scofflaw No. 593 isn’t alone. He or she is one of 4,415 drivers who blew through Bay Area bridge tolls 27,335 times from June 2008 to May 2010 without paying while driving a car registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles’ confidential address program, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can with toll authorities while the rest of the motoring public coughed up the $4 toll or faced fines.

To read the full article, go to the link:


RIDER CLOSING COMMENT: California is truly and legally a two tier society.  Our new protected aristocracy consists of our public employees — but especially our police, firefighters and politicians.


Comments 6

  1. I have confidential plates and we are not “ticket proof”. When my plate (or any other confidential plate) is ran our employers name is displayed. For example, mine states DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS. If an officer wants to cite me…they will and they will ask you for that confidential address so they can write it on the citation and you’ll receive the bail amount in the mail. And if toll and red light camera agencies really wanted to send me a citation…they would but they are too lazy to look up my employers address to send the ticket to! They have the resources but don’t want to use them because that’s not the norm and oh my gosh we can’t deviate from what the norm is…LOL. With a toll or red light camera violation they have the persons FULL NAME AND THE DEPARTMENT THEY WORK FOR. That’s enough information to serve them with the citation thus forcing them to pay. It’s a pretty simple concept.

  2. Post

    Mike, when a cop pulls you over, right away he knows you are “one of us.” Professional courtesy often then kicks in, and no ticket is issued. Indeed, I’ve had cops tell me that’s just one of the perks of the job.

    But should it be so? Should one class of people be largely exempt from the traffic laws? I think not.

  3. Richard I was just highlighting the fact that using the word ticket proof in the title of your article is very misleading to readers. As a LEO I can tell you first hand that I have been cited for moving violations by other LEO’s even though I had confidential plates at the time of those traffic stops. That might sound incredible to you but it happens all the time. You just don’t hear about it because the cops you have spoken to will NEVER disclose that to you. So no, we are not largely exempt from traffic laws. Sometimes the mood a LEO is in at the time of a traffic stop supersedes that professional courtesy you mentioned. Point being, people with confidential plates are NOT ticket-proof. If we were…I would not have 2 points on my driving record for being cited by two different LEO’s 🙂

  4. Post

    Mike, as I said, “professional courtesy often kicks in.” Not ALWAYS kicks in. Imagine how many tickets you’d have WITHOUT such courtesy. Or just maybe you’d drive more safely. 😉

    BTW, I haven’t had a moving violation for over 20 years, I think. And I’m the LAST guy to expect any such cop “professional courtesy.” I just hope that, when I’m next pulled over, the cop is not one to read newspapers, etc.

  5. I’m a LEO in California. I have confidential plates and I received a parking ticket for not having my wheels “cheated” while on a slight slope. BS parking ticket in my opinion. They sent the ticket to my Police Station where my Captain handed it to me. Not fun.

    Also, I’ve been given two speeding tickets in 25 years as an LEO. I’ve been let off a few times too. But, some LEOs don’t care and the site everyone. If it’s a small infraction, I normally let off all 911 responders, Military,Doctors, nurses, and anyone that’s really cool.

  6. more california us empire follies. sickening–caste system in the failed empire.

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