New Oklahoma Law Allows Seizure of License Plates

Law enforcement officers in Oklahoma will soon have the option to seize license plates from uninsured drivers and assign temporary insurance under a new law passed this year by the Legislature.

The law went into effect Nov. 1 allowing the seizure, but the Oklahoma Insurance Department said agencies won’t implement the changes until January as procedures are established.

“This is an innovative approach,” state Insurance Commissioner John Doak said. “It gives that law enforcement official, whether they be in rural Oklahoma or a metro area, a chance to make that decision” to seize the license plate instead of towing the vehicle, as allowed under a 2010 amendment.

“The ability to have both as an option will be a good thing,” said Maj. Shannon Clark of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

Under the law, temporary liability insurance can be assigned when a citation is issued for failure to comply with the compulsory insurance law. The Oklahoma Insurance Department estimates that about 563,700 vehicles are uninsured in the state, the Tulsa World reported Tuesday. That amounts to about $8.8 million in lost excise tax on insurance policy premiums each year, the Insurance Department said.

“I’ve yet to be in a room … that uninsured motorists haven’t been a very big issue, and it impacts our entire state,” Doak said of his yearly county-by-county tours.

The January enforcement date will allow the state time to establish the plan and coordinate training efforts with organizations such as the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association, the plan administrator.

The Oklahoma Sheriffs Association will also be responsible for receiving and disbursing a $125 administrative fee incurred by a driver when a license plate is seized. Portions of the fee will go to the county sheriff’s office, the law enforcement agency that issued the citation, the temporary insurance premium pool and the plan administrator.

The fine for failing to comply with the compulsory insurance law is $250.