So…who else just paid their slightly lapsed car registration because of this story? Just me?

A naval officer who dashed out to pick up dinner on Wisconsin Avenue for his wife and 6-month-old daughter in July returned home more than three hours later with an arrest record instead.

In between, he said, he was photographed in handcuffs by kids loitering on a District street corner, locked in a cell at the 2nd District station, fingerprinted and required to pose for a mug shot.

He was jailed because the license plates on his car had expired.

The District may be the only place in the nation where police are authorized to arrest drivers if their plates are more than 30 days out of date.

Critics of the policy, notably AAA, also cite the case of a mother who was arrested while she was on her way to pick up a child from school in Palisades in May. She was allegedly told that until her release, another child riding in the car would be sent to a social services agency.

It’s a bizarre policy, to be sure. Driving with expired tags isn’t inherently dangerous, and unlike driving uninsured, it has no bearing on the response to a car accident.

Gwendolyn Crump, director of MPD’s Office of Communications, explained in an email why only the people who have let their registration lapse past 30 days go to jail: “Realizing that people forget to renew their registration from time to time, the Chief of Police had previously directed her officers to only issue the civil Notice of Infraction in cases where the registration has been expired for less than thirty (30) days.”

How generous!

So to recap: Pay your registration within 30 days, and you’re probably not going to get arrested. Past 30: You may want to call your councilmember from jail.

It’s worth noting as well that both the Post and WJLA chose not to identify the arrested naval officer, even though the arrest report means his identity is a matter of public record. Perhaps as a sign of solidarity against bad policy?

Photo by Jay Goodman Tamboli