Orlando man dealing with 4-year ‘nightmare’ after license plate was stolen

Stolen license plates are incredibly common, law enforcement says

ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando man said he has been dealing with a nearly four-year nightmare after his license plate was stolen after a car crash.

Law enforcement officers said it’s more common than you might think.

Terrance Nolan said the nightmare started after his daughter was in a car accident on SR-417 in his blue Honda CRV.

“The car ended up being towed and totaled out,” Nolan said. “My daughter ended up going to the hospital for the afternoon. She’s fine.”

The car was towed by Johnson’s Wrecker Service and brought to their tow yard.

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“At the time, I was working overseas as a contractor, so I wasn’t stateside. My wife was out of state with my youngest daughter at a dance competition, so no one was available to get the license plate off the car,” Nolan said.

In a report filed with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Nolan wrote, “The car was totaled by the insurance company, who sold it to Copart (an auto auction company) with his license plate still attached.”

Copart then sold the car to a company out of Miami, according to the report At some point, the license plate was stolen.

“That’s when the nightmare began,” Nolan said.

First, Nolan started getting toll violation notices.

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His plate number was on the violation, but the car in the photo is not his Honda CRV. It appears to be a dark-colored Ford Expedition.

Then he got red light camera tickets out of Miami.

His license ended up being suspended twice while he tried working it out with the courts. As a truck driver, it was a financial hit, Nolan said.

“It cost me six weeks in lost pay. So, we’re talking about $15,000 between lost pay, travel and legal expenses. I’m out $15,000 I’ll never see,” Nolan said.

How common is stealing plates?

News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Trooper Steven Montiero said it is more common than you might think.

“As a law enforcement officer, you’d be surprised. This is an everyday occurrence,” Montiero said. “Think, how hard is it just to walk up, take someone’s tag right off, and then throw it on another car? It doesn’t have a blinker going off saying, ‘I’m stolen,’” he said.

We met at a tow yard and the number of cars that had been in crashes and still had the license plate was surprising.

“Look around here. There are tags all over the place and I bet you 100% of the people don’t even realize it,” Montiero said.

Montiero said, if you’re in a crash, remember the checklist.

“Your license, your vehicle registration, your proof of insurance. I think we need to start saying your license plate,” he said.

Stealing a license plate is a crime. If your tag is stolen, the state said you should fill out an affidavit and report it to the DMV, along with a police report.

Nolan said that was much easier said than done. He had to hire an attorney.

Also, if you are in a crash your tag is your responsibility, not the towing company and not law enforcement.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.