Towson State students' tags confiscated MVA takes the plates off cars without permits for nonresident drivers

November 06, 1995|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

About three dozen Towson State University students were left angry and temporarily without transportation when agents from the state Motor Vehicle Administration showed up at their off-campus apartment complex and confiscated license plates last week.

The students were told they were violating a little-enforced, 3-year-old law requiring full-time, out-of-state students to obtain nonresident permits.

The students had received an earlier warning about the law, but the action left them, parents and college officials irate.

"It was a mean little prank," said Susanna Craine, director of TSU university relations. "It was not implemented in the right way. It seemed like stealth."

"It was four hours of sheer horror," said Jane Fisher, property manager of the Valley View apartment complex in Towson where the incident took place. "Why pick on these students?"

MVA officials insist they were not targeting the students but responding to complaints by neighbors about the number of vehicles with out-of-state license plates at the apartment complex.

But Col. Stephen Murphy, chief of the university police, questioned the way the situation was handled. "It was the aggressive approach that left me perturbed."

During the unannounced 6:45 a.m. visit Tuesday, MVA agents blocked the apartment entrance off Cross Campus Drive as they removed tags from the cars without nonresident permits. Students heading for early-morning classes found themselves suddenly without transportation.

"I can't drive to the library. I can't go food shopping. It is just a hassle," said Jenni Jo Pfaff, a 20-year-old junior from New Jersey. didn't know my tags would be taken."

She was one of 35 students who found MVA notices on their cars several weeks ago, warning them to obtain nonresident permits or be liable for fines. She said there was no mention of plates being confiscated, however.

Now Ms. Pfaff has to pay $265 to get her licenses plates back at a full-service MVA location. "The worst part is, it is a 20-minute drive, and I can't get there because I can't drive," she said.

Another student, Danielle Castaldi, was caught in an MVA bureaucratic maze.

The 20-year-old junior said she mailed $20 for a nonresident permit to the MVA Oct. 15, but she still had her tags taken from her car in the MVA sweep. "I was on the verge of tears," she said.

Her mother, Bonnie Castaldi of Ocean City, N.J., said it took numerous phone calls to the MVA to straighten out the confusion. "I'm not upset by the lawbut as an out-of-state resident I did everything they asked us to do and they still came by and took the tags," she said.

In the wake of the MVA raid, Towson State University engaged in a major campaign with fliers, computer e-mail and classroom lectures throughout the campus to let students know about the law.

"We have been following up with the MVA," Colonel Murphy said. "We have asked them [that] if they are going to have aggressive enforcement on campus to please let us know, so we can inform the students."

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