Motor Vehicles Bureau Gets Your Birthday Wrong, Makes You Pay

A Cleveland driver paid to register his van and truck the day before his birthday, but got stuck with late fees because the Bureau of Motor Vehicles office insisted his birthday was three weeks earlier. The clerk’s response when the man produced a driver’s license with his correct birthday? Sorry; we can’t update the computer record or refund the penalty.

The driver, Willie Robinson, called the BMV after paying his fine, and was told he’d have to pay another fee to have his birthday corrected in the Bureau’s computer system:

When I called the BMV in Columbus, I was told I could run into the same problem next year if the BMV didn’t fix its computer record. But they said if they corrected it, the bureau would have to issue me replacement stickers and that would cost “at least” $15 per vehicle, maybe more. Plus, they said they won’t refund the $40 I already paid in late fees.

Robinson took his case to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Sheryl Harris, who intervened on his behalf.

After investigating its records, the BMV agrees that a BMV employee mistyped information somewhere along the line. It has corrected the error. The agency is refunding the $40 you paid in late fees and issuing you replacement stickers at no added cost to you, spokeswoman Lindsey Bohrer said.

The BMV’s apology was not without some finger-wagging, and a defense of a system that relies on contract workers with limited authority:

In defense of the BMV, Bohrer said that deputy registrars — people who work in offices scattered about the state — are contract employees and are not able to fix erroneous date-of-birth entries in computers. …

[The BMV’s Rachel Eaton] said consumers have a responsibility to review registration forms for errors because when they sign they are attesting the information is correct.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles gets man’s birthday wrong, tries to charge him for the mistake []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    [The BMV’s Rachel Eaton] said consumers have a responsibility to review registration forms for errors…

    Doesn’t the BMV have the same responsibility?

    • Tim says:

      In all fairness, you know your birthday better than they do.

      What probably happens is that they take down all of your information, then show you the information they took down. Then they ask you to sign something saying that you reviewed the information and it’s correct, to the best of your knowledge. Essentially, the spokesperson is saying that this guy did that.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        Yeah, but what probably happened was along the lines of this: the form the guy approved showed his birthday correctly on the 23rd (e.g.) and the contract keypunch clerk entered the 3rd… bang! 3-week discrepancy from a simple typo.

        • Difdi says:

          And they probably dug his paperwork out of a file cabinet to PROVE he had given them the wrong data then signed to confirm it…and discovered they were indeed at fault, hence the apology and refunding of fines.

        • kobresia says:

          I don’t know…in Colorado, anyway, the form the customer signs is a preliminary printout of the DMV record, containing all the information that the clerk has entered or updated. If you sign it, they commit the changes and move on, if you find an error, they correct and reprint it for you to review again.

  2. ShruggingGalt says:

    Welcome to the new reality. Where you will be charged a fee in order to pay a fee/tax. And if you don’t pay that fee, then you’ll be assessed a penalty fee. And the penalty fee will have a fee assessed to be paid…..

    • Cicadymn says:

      It’s a great age to be a collection agency.

      • tsalaroth says:

        Tell me about it. It’s one of the most profitable industries in the US right now.

        Also, I’ll take my 1 free internet now, please.

    • Radiating says:

      Sounds efficient.

    • Vanilla5 says:

      This is the truth.

      Upon moving to Georgia, I thought that when my tags said SEPT to expire that it meant that I had until the END of September to renew them, like in Missouri. No – they expired on my BIRTHDATE in September, which is what I was verbally told by a DMV employee (because I was a little confused as to how this all worked). So imagine my surprise when I got to pay $30 more to renew my tags/pay my ad valorem tax because it was now almost 3 weeks late an had incurred many fees.

    • tbax929 says:

      So, it’s a fee fee.

  3. fatediesel says:

    I love how government agencies refuse to take full responsibility for their errors. A couple years ago I renewed my drivers license. I glanced at it but didn’t check it very close. Months later I was surprised to learn it had the wrong birth date on it, saying I was 10 days older than I actually was. When I went to get a corrected license I was first told that I was wrong about my birth date and my license was correct. I obviously knew what my birth date was and had brought my birth certificate in case there was a discrepancy. I was then told it was impossible for a license to have a wrong birth date on it, even though I had a license with a wrong birth date. She finally said someone in a different agency must have changed it at some point and it wasn’t the DMV’s fault, but they gave me a correct license at no cost.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      When you were accepting a legal document, you admit you “glanced at it, but didn’t check very close”. However, that’s not your fault. I’m sure you were really busy that day. I have some papers here I’d like to get your signature on…

      • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

        It’s okay for our lawmakers to not read the laws, “forget” to pay their taxes, screw the system and rake in the cash, retain their jobs…and of course it’s okay for they to pass bills and laws with out actually reading what they are voting on.

      • Marshmelly says:

        How about its the agency’s responsibility to do their job correctly? Individuals shouldn’t have to double-check every single thing to make sure it is correct, thats the job of the agency.

        And then, when we do eventually notice the mistake (that shouldn’t have been made in the first place), they have the audacity to say that we are the ones that are incorrect? I’m sorry, but no. Responsibility lies on them if we submitted the correct information.

    • trentblase says:

      Something similar happened to me as well with the University of California. I entered my birthdate correctly on a form, and after starting school found out they had transcribed it incorrectly (yes, I am anal enough to keep pdfs of forms I submit). I took my driver license to the registrar to get it corrected, and they told me I needed to show my birth certificate, which was somewhere in a pile of boxes after a move. I basically wrote an email to various higher-ups stating that I’ve done my part to inform them of their error, and that they should have an interest in having accurate information. I honestly didn’t care whether they had the correct date or not… as long as I knew the incorrect date, I could “prove” my identity to all their systems that asked for my DOB. But these organizations are the ones who asked for OUR personal information. Therefore, it’s on them to correct their own mistakes, and I think it’s outrageous that the BMV tried to charge the OP a fee.

      Ugh, above is probably TLDR.

      • PatrickPortland says:

        I read it – and totally agree, especially after having been in basically the same situation.

      • Anakela says:

        Same thing happened with my university’s i.d.- my birthdate was incorrectly listed with a 01 for January instead of a 06 for June, day/year were correct. Tried to get the school to fix it and issue me one with my correct birthdate, but I couldn’t sufficiently ‘prove’ to them that my info was correct, and the info on their i.d. was wrong. Wasn’t able to get it fixed.

        Fast forward a few years later, when I spent the six months before I actually turned 21 using my school’s i.d. saying I was already 21 to get into bars.

  4. Nudiarist says:

    In addition, the Ohio BMV no longer sends out notices when driver’s licenses are due to expire. Since renewal is every four years, it’s very easy to forget. In July I went to renew my automobile tags in person because I was remiss in doing so by mail, and the clerk asked me if I also wanted to renew my license. Had I not been there in person I would not have known, my license would have expired, and I could have been hit with late penalties, or even been caught driving without a license. The clerk explained that they stopped sending out renewal reminders due to budget cuts. It’s my suspicion that they want people to forget so they can collect the late fees.

    • DuncanBleak says:

      Taxachusetts does this too. You can got to the RMV web site and have email notifications sent to you as a reminder.

    • MrEvil says:

      I don’t know about your state, but Texas has separate penalties for driving without or with a suspended licence vs driving with an expired one. Expired Licence is usually a fix-it ticket. I had a state trooper just give me a warning for speeding in a work zone with a 2 week expired licence.

    • CalicoGal says:

      This happened to me too last year. My license had expired in February and I never noticed til I used my license as ID for a new job in October and they pointed out that it was expired.

      I had been driving around on an expired license for 9 months!!!

  5. Xerloq says:

    The IRS did this to me a couple of years ago. Wrong birthday, so I couldn’t e-file. The IRS Agent actually suggested I intentionally list the wrong birthday (i.e. commit fraud) to complete the e-file. They traced it to a “typo” that changed my month-of-birth. I asked if a “typo” could fix it, especially given that I had 13 years of paying taxes with my real birth date.

    Nope. I’d have to correct it manually…

    Three months, four trips to the Social Security office, a trip to the County Recorder, five certified letters and a $15 fee to get a copy of my birth certificate later, my birthday was corrected.

    • EarthAngel says:

      I would have just mailed the return in.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      Most efiling programs have the ability to write a note or comment to go along with your return. I would have entered in the wrong birthday (to get it past the data validation) but included a note stating that the date in the system is wrong and needs to be corrected.

  6. redskull says:

    This is not new. Wayyyyyy back in the late 1970s, the BMV printed the wrong license number on my driver’s license (back then your license # was the same as your Social Security #). As I gazed proudly at my first ever driver’s license, I noticed the error on the number. I pointed it out to the BMV (5 minutes after getting it, mind you), and was told I’d have to pay for a new license if I wanted it fixed, or wait and get it fixed 4 years later when it expired. I told them to stuff it and I’d wait.

    Flash forward 4 years, when I naturally forgot all about it and didn’t get it changed. In the end it was about 12 years later when I finally remembered to have them fix it.

    • Difdi says:

      I would have asked them what the penalty was for a state worker caught knowingly falsifying official documents.

      That’s about the only method I know of to get a BMV/DMV to move quickly on ANYTHING…

  7. syzygy says:

    So this guy didn’t check whether the BMV got his info correct, but when they levied a fine based on the info they had (with no internal way for them to know his actual birthday – they’re not psychic), and he complained, they reversed the fees. But the headline makes the BMV seem like the villain here.

    Hmm, no byline, but I’m pretty sure I can guess…

    • Megalomania says:

      …after he had someone else intervene on his behalf, and being initially told he wouldn’t get his money back.

    • Jasen says:

      When I fill out my date of birth on the form, I fully expect them to use their psychic powers of English comprehension to read and enter it correctly into their system.
      I know, how entitled I must feel to expect a civil servant to read and type in English without my intervention. I’m a horrible person.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      What the heck is your problem?

      Of course the BMV is the villian here and if you’d read the story you’d understand that from the facts:

      BMV had the man’s birthdate wrong in their computer for his vehicle registration, even though his driver’s license has the correct date.

      They charged him a late fee even though he paid by his birthday because they said his birthday was earlier then it was.

      Even after he showed them proof that his birthday was when he said it was, they wouldn’t refund the fee.

      Only AFTER a media person got involved did they agree to refund the late fee.

      If you don’t think that the BMV is the villian, it’s probably because you work for an agency that sucks that bad also. Or maybe you work for a suck-ass bank like BofA or Chase, and you think this type of behavior is a-ok.

  8. Mike AKA MonolithTMA says:

    I renewed online one time, also in Ohio, and they sent me a piece of cardboard that had printing that looked like the sticker, but no sticker. I had to pay to get a new one for the same reason, fortunately the reprint is much cheaper.

  9. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    The BMV: We’re not happy until you’re not happy.

  10. theycallmeGinger says:

    My driver’s license originally had my SS# as the license # and it was entered erroneously by the DMV employee. (Being a teenager, it’s not like I checked for or expected errors.) In college we were asked to put our SS# on the top of all of our test sheets, which embedded the number into my brain — the wrong one. I used the wrong SS# for over 10 years before my dad caught it while helping me with taxes. It’s all fixed but now I have 2 SS numbers in my name…

  11. shepd says:

    Calling Harry B^HTuttle, your 27b/6 is incorrect and it’s your own fault!

  12. Gandalf the Grey says:

    I’ve had some issues with the DMV here. I went in to change my address, and they turned me away, telling me to come back in a month from them so I could renew too. I was happy for the tip, since it would save me about $20. A month later I came back, paid for a renewal and a change of address (I still have the receipt). I checked the name, address, and birth date, and went on my way. 7 months later, I got carded for some wine, and the cashier pointed out my license was expired. The DMV not only refused to renew my license for the fee I had already paid, or to refund the fee, but since the rates to renew had gone up, they charged me the new higher rate, plus a $15 ‘late renewal’ fee.

    I was livid. I could have dealt with having to pay the fee again, but the f-ing late fee they tacked on was just too much.

    It’s not like they care. They’re the government, they can do whatever they feel like.

  13. themrdee says:

    Many years ago I was renewing my driver’s license. There was also an older lady there doing the same. We were the only customers there. They gave the lady her typed up form to sign. She removed her gloves and corrected it with a real ink pin from her pocket book. The agent went livid and accused her of forging her birth date (at she was over 70 did it matter?) causing her to feel so bad she started crying. I lost my temper at her being treated so poorly. Police came. It was a big hassle. The report later in the paper even had a copy of the apology letter they sent to her. I forget to renew my license. It cost me 10 bucks. Money well spent.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Thank you for being a decent person and getting involved in that situation. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who gives a damn; I really like to hear about other people who do also.

  14. Mcshonky says:

    Damn unions……..
    Oh wait, they’re outsourced scabs.

  15. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    My height has been wrong on my license for over 30 years. I’ve never figured out how to fix it without paying a fee, so it remains wrong. If the DMV ever figures it out, I’ll just tell them I must have had wedge heels on that day.

    • katstermonster says:

      I know a lot of people who have flat-out lied about their height on their license…I think it’s mostly for the convenience of people who need to ID you (for alcohol, cigarettes, etc). My old license looked little like me and I used to get double-carded a lot. My response was always, “Really? How many girls do YOU know who are 5’10”?”

  16. Extractor says:

    What a crock!

  17. Difdi says:

    I once read a story about a man in medieval China with a similar problem. The bureaucracy had recorded his name with the wrong spelling, forcing him to either change his name to match the recorded spelling, or go to prison because nobody could find any record he’d ever paid his taxes…

  18. BrownEyes says:

    They tell you to check the license/registration/whatever and you glance over it. If’s wrong, you have no one but yourself to blame.

    • Corinthos says:

      The last time I was in there didn’t do that. It was for another drivers license and she just had me look at a screen confirm my name and address by hitting accept. then told me I’d get a new one in the mail in 1-2 weeks because of homeland security and sent me on my way.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Way to be the bureaucrate shill.

  19. SG-Cleve says:

    About a year ago Ohio started charging a late fee for licenses. This is a bunch of b.s., it doesn’t cost them anything extra to do a late renewal.

    Just another unvoted tax.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Shouldn’t the penalty be more about getting drivers to renew on time and not on what it costs them to do the action?

  20. Bog says:

    Whenever anyone says something like “Sorry; we can’t update the computer record or refund the penalty” it is always a lie.

  21. Joey_Brill says:

    Illinois gets DOB information from SSA. They changed my father’s birthday and wouldn’t let him have an ID card.

    After visiting the Social Security Office, they quickly let me know that all local social security systems have now been integrated. If there is an error anywhere, it is going to pop up and you will be asked to provide documentation.

    I will say this: the social security clerks were fast, thorough, and courteous. It took two weeks for DMV records to reflect the correct DOB.

  22. Joewithay says:

    I had an interesting conversation about my name at the DC DMV when I was trading in my WI driver license for a DC one. The women insisted Joey and Joseph were different names even though I told her a million times that Joey is short for Joseph. She said that she wouldn’t accept my Passport (Joseph) and my WI license (Joey) as an ID. Lucky for me she only worked at the info desk therefore wasn’t the one who actually had to accept my IDs. The person who I actually worked with to get my DC license didn’t even blink an eye at the names.

    • LastError says:

      Doncha just love the government offices that force you to run your problem past an info desk?

      You don’t get to stand in the actual line to get something done until and unless you have stood in line first for the info desk and the troll-like person there -who knows nothing and can DO nothing and only pretends to be an expert- assesses your paperwork and whatever goal you are tying to do and deems you worthy to pass, or sends you away because some detail is not exactly right.

      I lie to them. I take some fake paperwork and fake problem and keep my real paperwork and real goal to myself. I’ll explain it once to the person who actually does the work. The troll out in front has no business in my business.

      All of this started when government offices started putting in security guards who basically got to sit around. This angered the office workers who had to sit around AND actually occasionally do some work. So they make the security troll prescreen everyone for no extra money, and it doesn’t often do much good. But it ensures that nobody gets to sit around doing nothing.