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Heymatt:

Every day I see cars here in San Diego with Baja California license plates. I was wondering if our cops can run the plates on cars that are registered in Mexico or if those vehicles were essentially “off the grid” in regards to the Highway Patrol and other law-enforcement agencies. Like, if someone stole a car and then threw a set of Mexican plates on it, could it be hidden in plain sight that way?

— Pat, Del Cerro

The Highway Patrol can’t run Mexican plates like they can for cars registered in the United States. They have to get in touch with the Mexican authorities (and they have a Mexican liaison unit for just such a purpose) in order to acquire DMV-type records for cars with Baja license plates. Of course, that doesn’t mean throwing a set of Baja license plates onto a stolen car is effective camouflage.

Let’s say a CHP officer is cruising along the freeway and he sees a car that matches the description of a stolen vehicle, the only difference being a set of Mexican tags. All he has to do is pull the driver over and run the vehicle identification number through the DMV databases and that will bring up records of the vehicle’s past registrations. If it turns out that the suspect vehicle used to be registered to the person who just reported it stolen, then it’s time to get the cuffs out and all the tricky Baja license plates in the world won’t help.

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