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Call Kurtis Investigates: DMV Computer Problems Force Customers To Face Late Fees

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13'...
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Call Kurtis investigates tonight the DMV apologizing yet again for a computer problem.

Kurtis looks into this latest issue, keeping DMV customers from renewing their vehicle registrations.

Some Californians tonight find they have no choice but drive their cars illegally because the DMV won’t let them renew.

The DMV won’t say what went wrong here.

What we do know?

The DMV has apologized for more than a dozen computer problems so far this year.

Forced to drive his gas guzzling truck a DMV computer problem is keeping John Balunda from riding his motorcycle.

“There’s no registration, so I can’t drive the motorcycle legally,” said John.

The DMV’s web site has been down intermittently since Monday, keeping Californians up and down the state from renewing their vehicle registrations on time.

Now they face late fees unless they show up in person.

“We would have to show up in person to get the fines removed,” said John.

We’ve been tracking the DMV’s twitter feed for months.

They’ve apologized for technical difficulties with their website 16 different days since February.

And remember this? The DMV forced to turn people away in October after computers at their field offices crashed.

“I had an appointment and they said that their computers were down and they don’t know when they’re going to come back up,” said Talia Latona.

Under the California Public Records Act, we requested information tied to DMV computer problems dating back to 2007.

The agency’s legal team wrote back to us, saying they’d only research and get us those answers if we coughed up $1,533.19.

The DMV declined our request today for an on camera interview.

But sent us this statement reading in part, “The DMV is working with the California Technology Agency to fully resolve the issue, and we are committed to implementing measures to mitigate future delays in service to our customers.”

But that doesn’t help people like John who right now have vehicles unregistered and are facing late fees.

“Just think what type of revenue they’re generating from this web site being down,” said John.

His late fee… $30.

So will the DMV waive these late fees over the phone?

The DMV tells us it’ll work with customers on a case by case basis when they call up. They promised to personally give John a call.

DMV’s Full Statement

Since late Monday, the DMV has been experiencing a larger than normal influx of website traffic. This caused periodic slowdowns and website access for some customers. In most cases, however, online service has been fully restored. The DMV is working with the California Technology Agency to fully resolve the issue, and we are committed to implementing measures to mitigate future delays in service to our customers. DMV is directing customers in need of immediate business to its call centers at 800.777.0133, and also notifying customers that registration transactions can either be made through the mail, or through Self Service Terminals in selected field offices. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience they have experienced, and we appreciate their continued patience until this matter is fully resolved. We will continue to update the public both on our website and on Twitter and Facebook.

DMV’s Response To CBS13′s Public Records Act Request About Computer Failures

The Department of Motor Vehicles acknowledges receipt of your follow-up email received on January 13, 2012, clarifying your request under the California Public Records Act (Government Code section 6250 et seq.) for:

1. Any and all writings with respect to computer failures “when individual DMV field offices in the state were unable to operate the driver license and vehicle registration database” that were reported to DMV headquarters from 2007 to year-to-date.

2. Number of systemwide computer failures “when all DMV field offices in the state were unable to operate the driver license and vehicle registration database”.

Although the Department is unable to identify “all writings” in response to request # 1 or a document that contains the “number” requested in # 2, the Department is able to assist you in making a focused and effective request pursuant to Government Code section 6253.1 of the California Public Records Act by searching its “Incident Tracking” database, which consists of approximately 130,000 records and an archive of approximately 70,000 records to capture every problem reported with any computer since 2007.

The search criteria will consist of two parts: (#1) a single office unable to perform driver license and vehicle registration transactions for more than one (1) hour and include the office name, date, time (from/to), and issue; and (#2) keyword search for “statewide” or “multiple offices” (and variations of these terms) and downtime of more than one (1) hour.

Under the California Public Records Act, Government Code section 6253.9: “the requester shall bear the cost of producing a copy of the record …when …(2) the request would require data compilation, extraction, or programming to produce the record. Furthermore, California Government Code Section 6253, subdivision (b), provides that the state agency make the identifiable public records available “upon payment of fees covering the direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee, if applicable.” California Vehicle Code section 1811 allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to charge “at least the entire actual cost to the department of the copies.” The actual cost would include the cost of gathering and analyzing the records. See also Shippen v. DMV (1984) 161 Cal.App.3d 1119.

The estimated costs for the Department to search for and provide documents responsive to requests # 1 and # 2 is one-thousand, five-hundred, thirty-three dollars and nineteen cents ($1,533.19) payable to the DMV as a deposit for the statutory fee, which shall be mailed to:

Department of Motor Vehicles
Legal Affairs Division, C-128
P.O. Box 932382
Sacramento, CA 94232-3820
Attention: ROGER J. SATO

Upon receipt of payment for the estimated costs and after completing the process of making the files available for public inspection, the Department will notify you of any refund or outstanding balance due and payable prior to mailing the documents to you.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at your convenience. If the Department does not receive a deposit payment for the requested documents within thirty (30) days, we will be closing our file in this matter.

Sincerely,

Roger J. Sato
Senior Staff Counsel
Legal Affairs Division
Department of Motor Vehicles

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