The Washington Times - October 11, 2011, 05:17PM

The motorist association that represents millions of drivers in the Washington area is demanding the District re-examine rules that allow its police officers to jail drivers with expired vehicle registrations.

In a letter to D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, AAA-Mid Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II requested a hearing because “police officers appear to be following the letter of the law while violating the spirit of the law.”

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The D.C. Code allows motorists driving on expired tags a grace period of 30 days from the expiration date of the tags. After that, the punishment is up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000.

Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said that police policy allows an officer after the 30-day grace period to arrest a motorist driving on expired tags, issue a criminal citation or issue a civil traffic ticket, depending on the circumstances.

“These actions are in accordance with District law and regulations,” Ms. Crump said. “If the Council of the District of Columbia is concerned with this law, we encourage them to review the issue and determine whether to amend it,” she said.

Mr. Townsend said that arresting motorists was an overreaction.

“This is not like driving without an ID or without insurance,” he said. “This is like making a mountain out of a molehill for a minor infraction.”

Last week, Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, wrote a letter to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray asking him to make similar reviews of the law.