170 Bogus Tickets: Chicago Tests Ticketing Equipment With Your License Plate

When I read the headline for this story (it didn’t mention Chicago), I bet myself a million dollars that the man had an Illinois license plate. I am now a millionaire. Or I will be as soon as I pay myself.

Meet Tom. He is the proud owner of the license plate “0.” His family has had the plate for 40 years. Apparently, it didn’t occur to the City of Chicago to check to see if someone was using the “0” license plate before they decided to use it to test their ticketing equipment.

Since 1997, Tom has been receiving all kinds of tickets. Parking tickets. Expired meter tickets. Street sweeping tickets. Tickets for running stop signs and red lights. He’s even gotten tickets for parking his taxi on a residential street. Though the article doesn’t specifically mention it, he doesn’t seem own a taxi. He also probably doesn’t own a bus, but he has a ticket for parking one illegally.

UPI says that Tom has been trying to clear up the issue, (for 12 years, we assume) but has so far been unable to get anyone to help him. Until now, of course.

“The test violations should have been dismissed in the database. The majority of the cases (Tom) contested successfully. But we are taking steps to rectify the situation so in the future an actual registered plate number will not be used to do the testing,” Revenue Department spokesman Ed Walsh told the Chicago Tribune. He said that the Department of Revenue was unaware that the “0” plate was in circulation.

‘0’ plate gets 170 mistaken tickets [UPI via Fark]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jeremy82465 says:

    He should use this to his advantage and contest real tickets on the claim of:

    “Look at all these other tickets, illegally parking a bus? I dont own a bus! Clearly I didnt go 80 through this school zone for handicapped kittens!”

  2. BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave says:

    I read something along the same lines at Snopes:

    People who put in requests for plates, and wrote “No Plate” in the last field b/c they only wanted their first two choices get the tag, NO PLATE. So when a cop comes across a car w/a missing tag, he writes NO PLATE. Hilarity ensues.

    • BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave: Me personally, I would enjoy this, as it would give me a day off from work to go down to the courthouse, know the ticket will get thrown out, but enjoy the spectacle that is our legal system.

      • kateblack says:


        It’s a LOT less amusing when it happens. When I was in college (full time) and working several jobs to pay for the privilege, I got parking tickets all the time. Parking tickets for leaving my car in a permit-only area — except I had the permit, displayed as legally required. The myopic metermaid kept ticketing me. The angle of the car’s rear windshield may have made a glare so that the permit-sticker wasn’t visible from the end of the block, where she would write her tickets. But instead of correcting her mistake, she’d leave me the ticket. And I’d have to go to court each and every time, because the city bureaucracy couldn’t even figure out that when I showed up at City Hall w/ my permit receipt, photographs of the car/location and ticket that they should cancel the bogus ticket. When I had to get out of work to go to court for someone else’s dumb mistake, it cost me 3 hours wages + $10 or $15 in parking fees. When I missed class, I was out approximately $450 worth of services that I’d paid for + $10-15 in parking fees.

        I’m still pissed.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave: There’s a story about Steve Wozniak and his one-time life dream to have a single-digit phone number, 888-8888. Turned out the number was unusable.

    • Alex Chasick says:

      @BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave: Thank you: talking about Snopes and license plates allows me to post this great story: [www.snopes.com]

    • Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

      @BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave: The same thing happened a bunch of years ago (in NY or NJ) to a woman who had “TEMP” as her vanity plate – hundreds of tickets from all across the State.

      I don’t know how it ended, but last I heard, the bureaucratic nightmare was that a lot of municipalities were still going to make her show up in court to fight the ticket.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave: while we’re talking about stupid things states have done…
      In NC, our standard plates come in the form of 3 letters, a dash, and 4 numbers (in the form of ABC-1234). Certain prefixes have been deemed “idecent” and will never occur, such as ASS and FUK.
      within the past 2 years, we’ve gone through the W phase of our plates, and the prefix “WTF” was printed. nobody cared. until somebody realized that “WTF” could stand for “What The F**k”. North Carolina sent out letters to all 10,000 “WTF” plate owners, offering to replace their plates free of charge, if they were offended.

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        @gStein: LOL, I was just looking up this story. I would’ve paid for one of those plates but I thought DMV would’ve already banned these. Ah, I love the Tarheel state.

  3. Megalomania says:

    some random guy has the “0” plate? I know in VA they give out single digit plates to politicians (1 for the Governor, 2 for Lieutenant Governor, and 3 for president pro tem of the senate, etc). I can only presume that the purpose of that is so that they do not get tickets, so it kind of confuses me that Illinois of all places would not have at least a similar policy..

    • calquist says:

      @Megalomania: Yeah, I saw a Washington DC plate with just “1” driving around Missouri. I’m pretty sure it had to be Jesus’s SUV.

      • blizl says:

        DC plate 1 is that of the Mayor of the District of Columbia, although it’s rarely used due to security concerns. Legend has it that the last Mayor, Tony Williams, had it in his desk drawer for most of his term. But then, DC makes all kinds of “make this person feel special” plates. Plates 2-1250 are given out by the Mayor and City Council on a yearly basis as political favors. Walter Washington, the first DC Mayor elected by the people of DC, had “First Elected Mayor” printed on his plate, no number at all. Oddly, the President tools around with the plain old DC plate 800-002.

    • Tim says:

      @Megalomania: In some states they have auctions for the very short plates.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Megalomania: You can keep plates in the family in Illinois, and people with low-number plates in Illinois go to crazy lengths to keep them since they’re a sign of prestige. If your family got an automobile sufficiently long ago and has kept the plate ever since … voila, low-number plate. The Chicago Tribune used to run an accounting of who had them now and then; most of them belong to old money on the North Shore.

      I can tell my husband has become a real Illinoisian because he texted me a couple weeks ago when he saw plate #11 in his parking garage. :)

      @calquist: In Illinois, the Catholic Archbishop of Chicago traditionally got plate #1 (partly because then politicians couldn’t bicker of the assignment of it!). But IIRC, they quit using it a few years ago.

    • blizl says:


      Illinois does do exactly that. The Governor gets “1”, all the way down to the Auditor General at “7”. Most states have the zero blocked from passenger use, as it’s usually what gets put on sample plates and the like. Interesting that IL has it floating around out there.

    • Will Ross says:

      I know they also give out special plates to the delegates here in VA. My delegate (state congressman) who lives up the street has his district as his license plate number.

    • TShK says:

      Illinois has special government plates to denote politicians. An example would be an Illinois House plate which I believe is numbered based on your district

  4. Michael Belisle says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t commandeer the plate and tell him to go to the back of the custom plate line. Not that they should, but that’s about what I’d expect from them.

  5. henwy says:

    Lucky guy. It sounds like he has a get out of jail free card for all non-moving violations.

  6. Japheaux says:

    Maybe they thought that the zero is actually an ‘oh’ and figured it was Oprah, who in turn would do a show about women who love dogs who read books who hate men.

    • BennyMigrationWitness_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @Japheaux: I wish my dog would read books. He mostly slobbers on them, then the cats sleep on them.

      • henwy says:


        Out of the 4 dogs we’ve owned, only 1 has ever been able to watch tv and recognize people/animals.

        • floraposte says:

          @henwy: And even then he probably got their names wrong.

        • Skeetz says:

          @henwy: That’s so weird.. my dog does the same thing.. growls at horses and various other animals on TV.. i have to cover his head with a blanket like a bird in a cage..

          • docrice says:

            @Skeetz: My dog wags her tail at dogs on TV, barks at cats, and goes to the front door if someone rings a doorbell on a show. Any idea how often a doorbell rings on TV? A lot more than I used to think….

            • Robert Stevens says:


              One of my dogs barks like crazy if a doorbell rings on TV, and yes, it does happen more often than you think. Some commercials have multiple rings in them. What’s weird is that there’s frequently quite bit of difference in how the doorbells sound, and our doorbell doesn’t sound very standard at all, but he still thinks it’s our door every time. Amusing the first few times, but not so much any more.

  7. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Why did it take this long for someone to notice had an strange plate number? Even if it was my first day at the DMV, and some guy says “Hey I got a ticket for a taxi and a bus, and I own neither”…then I see is plate number is “0”…I’d suspect one thing had to do with the other.

  8. HiPwr says:

    I would have shit-canned that plate a long time ago. It’s not worth the hassle.

  9. rpm773 says:

    Illinois was always the land of crazy vanity plates (to us in Indiana, at least).

    When I moved there, once I was driving to work and saw what appeared to be an ordinary woman driving a Toyota with plates that read KKKatie.

    I’ve always wondered if she was the clueless type, or the grand wizard type.

  10. krom says:

    This is piss-poor testing methodology. #1, There’s no reason that they should be using a system that issues real “live” actions to perform functional tests, and #2, if they do perform testing in a live system (there are valid reasons, such as post-maintenance/upgrade checks, etc.), they should only be using a corpus of *known* “dummy” or otherwise containable variables (like, say, the mayor’s plate).

    But it seems, in government, idiots can be steadily employed, even in the worst recession in a half century.

    • feline says:

      @krom: The problem with using the mayor’s plate is that you end up with a visit from the mayor’s security.

      I knew a developer for Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. He needed a plate number he had never used before to test some code, so walked outside and jotted down the first plate number he saw. Five minutes after he ran a query on it, he got a visit from some stern highway patrol officer wanting to know why he was looking up the plate number for one of the FHP’s top brass.

    • smonkey says:

      @krom: dude…it’s the rmv. what do you want?

      Here in MA people got fed up with the wait times at the RMV. So they did the logical thing, they removed all the clocks.

      /wishes he was joking….

    • Whitey Fisk says:

      @krom: More likely that they employed a software consulting firm and are paying twice as much as they should.

  11. pop top says:

    @Liam Kinkaid: Way to kill the funny there, buddy.

  12. Skeetz says:

    I’m still waiting for my “SMLWNR” plates to go with my new tricked out beemer…

  13. shepd says:

    Plausible deniability man, plausible deniability.

  14. gparlett says:

    Why didn’t Tom simply switch to a normal plate 12 years ago when this began happening? I get that the license plate has been in the family for 40 years, but was it really worth it?

  15. Black-Cat says:

    How about just moving out of that toliet to somewhere nice?

  16. Bs Baldwin says:

    It is so nice that Illinois is the Florida of the midwest.