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Electronic proof of registration not enough

CAN I SHOW A PIC OF MY INSURANCE AND REGISTRATION? DT emails that “advice about identity theft often suggests keeping no identifying documents in your car, i.e., registration and proof of insurance. In light of that, I photographed those documents and keep them only on my phone. They are clear and easy to read. If stopped by Albuquerque, Bernalillo County or N.M. State Police, would I get a citation?”

Probably not for the insurance. But it depends, sometimes on the agency and sometimes on the officer. And the registration is a totally different animal.

In June 2017, a Journal story reported “New Mexico is poised to be the only state in the nation in which police are not required to accept electronic proof of auto insurance, such as in an email or phone app, during a traffic stop. (The District of Columbia doesn’t either, and Massachusetts includes insurance information on its registration documents.)

“While most of the state’s large police agencies say there is an informal policy of accepting such proof, the state law doesn’t address electronic proof at all.

“That leaves the decision up to individual officers, who could choose not to accept it. New Mexico State Police is the only one of the large police agencies to formally instruct its officers to accept such proof.”

A follow-up story examined an unpublished state Court of Appeals ruling that there is “no meaningful difference between a hard copy of an insurance card and an electronic copy.” And it included then-Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gorden Eden announcing his officers must accept digital proof of insurance, such as through an app or email. A Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman added that agency was considering doing the same, but in the interim she thought most deputies accepted electronic proof of insurance.

In other words, accepting electronic proof of insurance is not on the books, so depending on it is a gamble.

A month later in this column, APD explained proof of vehicle registration is different.

Officer Simon Drobik said providing a photo of your registration card is not enough, that allowing for electronic proof requires an accessible database and New Mexico’s MVD “is not there yet.”

Neither are most states’, though Michigan approved electronic proof of registration in 2017.

Drobik added that drivers should be careful when handing their cellphones over to officers to show proof of insurance – State Police policy suggests having drivers hold their phones for officers to read and for officers never take the device out of the owner’s sight – because no officer wants to be responsible when you toss your iPhone X or Galaxy S10 out the window and he/she doesn’t catch it, or to be accused of privacy/search and seizure violations.

ELLISON REPAVING A YEAR AWAY: Dawn asks in an email “when is Ellison on the West Side going to be repaved? The road is just horrible, and quite frankly my tires are getting worn and my butt is sore.”

I’d buy a seat cushion.

Johnny Chandler, public information coordinator for the city’s Department of Municipal Development, says the department “has re-paving of Ellison drive on our radar. We tentatively have that roadway scheduled for re-paving in the summer of 2020.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.

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