by Victor Lopez
ECTOR COUNTY--Imagine being told you can't renew your vehicle registration because there is a flag on your registration.
That's what happened to one Odessa woman and as it turns out, there's a state law to support it, that you may not know about.
The scofflaw went into effect in Texas in the late 1990's. Ector County started enforcing it about two or three years ago.
By definition, scofflaw is a person who flouts the law, especially someone who fails to pay fines owed, a simple act that can keep you or somebody else from renewing their vehicle registration.
"They have to pay whatever the fine, court costs, taxes, property taxes, anything like that, before they are able to receive their registration," Wanda Modarelli, Director of Compliance for Ector County, said.
Armeda Mireles got an unexpected surprise when she recently went to renew her vehicle registration.
"I went to go get my tags and they told me I couldn't get them because I had a block. I asked them why? They gave me an address to go to the courthouse. They told me it was probably because I had a ticket that I hadn't paid," Mireles explained.
The Ector County Compliance Department was established in 2006. It's their job is to collect any money that is owed to the county, be it fines, court costs and even property taxes.
So, what does this have to do with vehicle registrations?
According to Modarelli, "We block renewal of driver's license. We block renewal of vehicle registration. We send it to collection and in the end, we issue a warrant. If it's not paid, they go to jail."
The law allows cities and counties in Texas to block registration in order to collect on anything owed that is over 90 days old.
In Mireles' case, she didn't owe anything, "I was upset because I knew that I didn't owe anything. So, I was really upset."
Luckily for her, there's a way out for those who get flagged by mistake.
"(If) we find that they don't owe Ector Co. anything, we give a sealed slip of paper that they take to the tax accessor and they are able to get the registration," Modarelli said.
Mireles says she doesn't mind paying for something she's responsible for, but not for somebody else, "If you're the one that did it, okay fine. But if you don't have nothing to do with that, why should you be penalized?"
Modarelli has some advice for people to keep from getting caught up in the red tape, "Pay all, anything you owe Ector County and then you won't have a problem."
Information on scofflaw is located on the back side of your vehicle registration form. To find out if you have flag on your renewal, you can call the Ector County Compliance Department with your license plate number, and they can check it for you.