Posted on January 7, 2010 at 6:39 AM
HOUSTON—The average cost for a state inspection sticker is $30, but some think it should be free. In fact, authorities are busting people for either buying or making counterfeit stickers. And the problem is much larger than you think.
There is no way to figure out just how many cars are driving around Houston with counterfeit vehicle inspection stickers, but sifting through more than six -months worth of court records, 11 News discovered hundreds of Harris County residents have been charged with displaying a fictitious counterfeit inspection sticker.
Police said there are several reasons why people cheat: They either don’t have a valid Texas Drivers License, can’t afford to pay for repairs or the actual sticker or they don’t have required liability insurance.
Most of the fake stickers police find are made of thin plastic that can easily be peeled off.
In Texas, the real stickers must be scraped off and they are designed to fall apart when they’re being removed. But even then, some crooks steal them and then try to piece them back together.
Police have investigated several thefts at used car lots where thieves broke into dozens of vehicles over night just to steal the inspection stickers. However, once they’re put on another vehicle they are often easy to detect.
At Jiffy Lube and other inspection stations, AlexTurcio said the inspection stickers are so coveted, they have to be locked up and then, they must be filled out properly.
“First of all we have our station number which identifies the place that they took the car. Our signature and right here we have to put the vehicle identification number—the VIN number and the mileage—that makes it authentic,” said Turcio.
A number on the inspection sticker is then entered into a state computer and can be matched with that specific vehicle.
And the penalty for those who break the law?
“The legislature made the law for a reason and we prosecute these laws to the fullest extent,” said ADA Rachel Ann Palmer. “In Texas it is a Class B misdemeanor to have a fictitious or counterfeit inspection sticker on your vehicle.”
That Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $2000 fine.
Every day people who break this law are summoned downtown to face a judge. Joseph Calvin Francois allegedly attached an inspection sticker that was actually issued to another vehicle to his car.
More than half of the inspection sticker violators 11 News found in Harris County were to undocumented workers, but all of them, are likely driving our streets with unsafe vehicles and no insurance.
Drivers without proper state inspections can ruin your day in an instant if they happen to run into you.