California man’s clever 'NULL' vanity plate nets thousands in tickets

We hate to say it, but not all custom tags are GR8 PL8S

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Your author will begin this post by saying he dearly enjoys vanity plates. Clever, obvious or just plain obtuse, these thin strips of metal are yet another way for Type-A personalities to express themselves (you can probably guess by now I’ve an appropriately shout-y one on my car).

One driver in California thought he was being extra-clever when requesting a plate that read NULL.

At the DEF CON hacking conference in Vegas this year, an infosec researcher going by the online handle Droogie explained his intent was to affix a plate to his car bearing the programming term used when a computer can’t find a specific value, reports iHeartRadio.

Geek humour at its finest, sure, but his plan was to see if he could fool automatic plate readers and essentially make his plate digitally “invisible.”

Instead, the exact opposite happened, and over $12,000 worth of tickets showed up in his mailbox.

As it turns out, the state’s third-party contractor that processes citations apparently records the word ‘NULL’ when they have incomplete data for a particular offense. Most, if not all, of them were considered to be outstanding tickets. With that in mind, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened next.

Since the plate on Droogie’s car legally read NULL, citations for all those outstanding tickets were sent to him. With fines piling up like dirty laundry, he contacted the California DMV and the LAPD to thoroughly explain the situation. Both parties first told him to change his plates. After he refused, the DMV arranged to wipe out the debt. Problem solved.

Well, not really. The third-party citation company didn’t make any changes to their system and, with NULL still securely bolted on to the back of Droogie’s car, he started piling up citations again. The current figure, he says, exceeds US$6,000. He has no intention of paying.

It must be noted this is not a new problem. In 1979, a Los Angeles man was issued NO PLATE, resulting in similar hilarity. Jim Cara of Deleware kept getting citations for his NOTAG license plate in 2004; as did a Florida resident in 2012.

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