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Drive reader Nancy was recently heading north on Penn Avenue from Crosstown Hwy. 62 to 50th Street in south Minneapolis and noticed expired license tabs on the vehicle in front of her.

She eyed a few other plates and they, too, had expired tabs ranging from two to eight months overdue.

"I certainly considered tab renewal to be mandatory and enforced, but it appears that, like speed limits, paying is discretionary," she said in an email.

Drive reader Pam said she's also seen lots of vehicles with expired license tabs from 2021 and 2022. "Is it no longer required that we renew our yearly car tabs?" she asked.

Several others also have contacted the Drive in recent months, wondering if non-compliance is becoming more frequent.

State law requires vehicles driven or parked on public streets to display tabs showing the month of expiration in the lower left corner of each plate and the year of expiration in the lower right. Some vehicles are exempt, such as those owned by the government, nonprofit charities when used for specific purposes, and some collector vehicles.

The number of vehicles with expired registrations is fluid, said Dave Boxum, a spokesman with Driver and Vehicle Services. Motorists delay renewing registration for many reasons, such as when a vehicle needs repairs, is in storage, is being held for resale, he said. Others simply didn't realize the tabs were expired.

A registration period runs 12 months. Vehicle owners renewing anytime during that 12-month period owe the entire registration fee for the year. There are no prorated rates and there are no penalties for renewing late, Boxum said.

However, Minnesota law allows customers to claim nonuse if a vehicle was not used for an entire registration period. If a customer claims nonuse, only the current registration tax is due and tax for the previous registration year or years is waived, Boxum said.

Some agencies relaxed the writing of tickets for expired tabs and other minor offenses after the onset of COVID-19 and the unrest that followed the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center in 2021. Some, like Minneapolis, have seen a drop in the number of officers on the streets.

That made Drive reader Steve wonder if motorists are simply taking advantage.

"Are people just defying the law?" he asked. "Am I a chump for paying mine?

Tickets for tab violations have dropped from about 1,180 statewide for all of 2017 to just 119 from January through August of last year, court records show.

"The State Patrol prioritizes its enforcement on traffic safety issues jeopardizing the lives of Minnesotans, but will address other violations like expired tabs as part of their duties," Boxum said.

Hwy. 212 road work ahead

MnDOT will fix 3 12 miles of Hwy. 212 that passes through Cologne and portions of Benton and Dahlgren townships this summer. The work will include concrete pavement pair, resurfacing shoulders and installing cable median barriers and guardrails.