If I’m poor, can I drive to work with an expired registration and risk not getting caught?

Question: If I’m poor, can I drive to work with an expired registration and risk not getting caught? Or am I morally bound to renew it as a Catholic?

Being poor does not give you an excuse to break the law – imagine what would happen if everyone decided to stop complying with regulations that seem unaffordable. Revenue derived from them is public money, to be used on public projects for public benefit. (How well this happens in every particular case and jurisdiction is outside the scope of the question.) Without this money, services would suffer. While exact formulas vary from state to state, car registration fees generally pay for transportation-related services like road maintenance, which we all need. As Catholics and as good citizens, we have a responsibility to contribute to meeting our community’s needs; paying taxes and fees is one of the ways we do that.

Also consider this: if you do get caught, you’ll probably be out more money. You’ll have to pay the fine and the registration; in some states your car can be impounded if the registration is more than six months out of date. Saving money in the short term probably isn’t worth the potential long-term costs. If your budget is very tight and your commute makes it feasible, it might be time to consider a bicycle or bus pass.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.


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