One of the more commonly violated state regulations is the vehicle emissions and safety inspection required to have a car registered.
Every year, state and county officials issue warnings that falsifying registration stickers or applications is a federal felony. And every year auto owners keep coming up with clever ways to beat the system.Last year, it was falsifying the registration sticker. But the latest method to come to the attention of government enforcers preys on the state's lack of resources to follow up on potential violators.
It involves people who apply for a registration exemption. Exemptions are allowed for people who live out of state but want to keep their car registered in Utah, such as someone on a work or church assignment for a year or more. Auto owners are given a registration sticker on condition they have their car inspected where they are, if that location requires an inspection, or have it done when they return to Utah.
The fraud occurs when applicants don't actually live out of state and receive an exemption, or if they do live out of state but don't have the inspection done when they return.
The state grants about 80,000 exemptions annually. Lt. Burdell Hamilton, commander of vehicle and equipment safety inspection for the Utah Highway Patrol, said the program is designed to give inconvenienced motorists a chance to comply with state law.
"Every time you try to meet the law in one respect, it can be abused in another," Hamilton said.
But he warned that violators can't get away with it forever. And when they get caught they will be prosecuted for past offenses. Falsifying a registration application or sticker is a second-degree felony, carrying a penalty of one to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Hamilton's department does random reviews to see if those granted exemptions have honored their commitment to get an inspection. "We only have 12 people so there is no way to follow up on every one of them," he said.
The Deseret News recently received a letter from an unidentified motorist saying he has used exemptions and hasn't had an inspection for two consecutive years because the state never followed up to see if it had been done.
"The chances of him getting away with it for a third time are not very probable," Hamilton said, noting those who have received more than two exemptions are certain to receive a call.
The Salt Lake City-County Health Department regularly sends a letter to those receiving an exemption to remind them to get their inspection and emissions test. "This guy must have slipped through the cracks. We will have to make more of an effort to follow up on those who have had exemptions for two years," said Richard Valentine, of air-pollution control.
Both the UHP and Salt Lake County said that in the next year or more, the inspection and emission-control programs will be computerized. Garages conducting inspections will store information on a computer disc, which officials can pick up to compile a data base, making it easier for officials to follow up on exemptions.
"As the process becomes more automated and refined with computers, the chances of getting away will get slimmer and slimmer," Hamilton said.