KSL INVESTIGATES

A KSL investigation finds thousands of Utah motorists could be incorrectly targeted by state’s insurance database

Jun 5, 2018, 10:15 PM | Updated: Jun 6, 2018, 6:44 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A KSL investigation found tens of thousands of Utah motorists could be pulled over and ticketed because a state contracted database mislabels them as uninsured.

The result: motorists could pay hundreds of dollars in tow fees and have to go to court to prove their innocence, even if the driver had done nothing wrong on the road.

TARGETED & TICKETED

It happened to Kelly Chiodo. On her way to breakfast one morning, she was stopped at a red light in North Salt Lake.

Kelly Chiodo was incorrectly listed on the state’s uninsured motorist’s database.

“Right when the light turned green that’s when the red and blues started shining,” said Chiodo.

Police dash camera video shows a North Salt Lake police officer following Chiodo as she pulled into a parking lot, then blocking Chiodo’s car in.

The officer walked to Chiodo’s passenger window and said, “The reason I stopped you today is I show your vehicle doesn’t have insurance.”

Chiodo had insurance, but couldn’t prove it on the spot. She got a ticket, but the officer cut her a break: she didn’t get towed.

Chiodo fought it in court. After proving she was insured all along, she got the ticket dismissed.

INSURANCE DATABASE

Police use their in-car computers to access data provided by Insure-Rite, the company contracted by the state to operate the uninsured motorist database.

Utah created the database over 20 years ago to identify uninsured motorists and get them to follow the state’s mandatory insurance laws.

By law, the company is audited every three years by the state to check for accuracy. The latest audit showed Insure-Rite matched 96.7 percent of the motorists in the database correctly.

That means there are about 56,000 drivers in Utah who may fall within the database’s margin of error and be mislabeled as uninsured, when they actually have insurance.

“In that matching process you’re going to have some mistakes when you have a couple billion records and 300 different insurance companies,” said Insure-Rite CEO Richard Kasteler.

Mistakes can be caused by several factors:

  • • An insurance company doesn’t report your new policy right away.
  • • Out of state insurance companies are not required to report to the database.
  • • A clerical error in a vehicle’s identification number.

Those results can cause a person to be flagged as uninsured and pulled over by police.

The KSL Investigators reviewed three years of traffic stops from across Utah and found 11,800 tickets issued for no insurance.

West Valley City police issued the most tickets: 568 total over that time. Our research showed 158 of those tickets, almost 28 percent, were dismissed after motorists went to court and proved they had insurance.

Police defend their use of the database.

“We do it to protect the motorists in the State of Utah,” said Allan Shinney, the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement.

Shinney and other law enforcement sources insist these stops are not a violation of your civil rights because the law makes car insurance mandatory.

“If you’re a single mother or a college student where you just have liability and then you get into a wreck with somebody who has no insurance and then you have nothing, and that’s happened to three of my family members, that’s painful,” said Shinney.

It’s legality may be for a court to decide.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL?

Defense attorney and former prosecutor Kent Morgan calls the practice unconstitutional and said there’s a bigger problem here: he believes Chiodo shouldn’t have been stopped in the first place.

Defense attorney Kent Morgan believes the way law enforcement use the state database violates motorists’ civil rights.

“You cannot be stopped by a policeman just to check and see if you’re violating the law, they must have at least a reasonable suspicion to believe that you’re committing a crime,” said Morgan.

In Chiodo’s traffic stop, the officer’s citation said she had been parked on the side of the road and ran a records check on Chiodo’s license plate, which was identified as uninsured.

The officer listed no other reason on the citation for the stop, and did not provide any other reason to Chiodo on the body camera recording.

Morgan believes the practice of pulling people over by using a database to check for insurance when no other traffic law has been broken violates motorists’ civil rights. He points to a decades old US Supreme Court decision as proof.

“This is America,” Morgan said, “and in America, reasonable suspicion to believe you violated the law is a condition to confronting people and detaining them.”

PREVENT IT HAPPENING TO YOU

The onus is on the motorist to prove they carry insurance.

Motorists can call Insure-Rite to double check they are properly matched in the database. The company’s phone number is 801-531-0731.

Insure-Rite told us it sends letters to residents who are flagged as uninsured. Ignoring the letters twice will lead the state to revoke a car’s registration for lacking insurance.

To fight the ticket on the spot, motorists must provide proof of insurance with either an insurance card kept in the car, or information on a smart phone.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

...
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

Get Gephardt: No, really, why are Utah gas prices still higher than the national average?

Why are gas prices in Utah so much higher than other parts of the country?
4 days ago
...
Daniella Rivera

Tracking Transparency: Why prison surveillance videos are rarely released to the public

Since this investigation aired last night, we've heard from some of you wondering why the state is withholding these videos from the public. Here's some of the transparency issues.
4 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt helps Farmington traveler get reimbursed after getting bumped from her flight

A woman paid Delta Airlines $617 to upgrade her seat. But when she arrived at the airport, she found she had no seat at all.
5 days ago
...
Daniella Rivera

‘They’re all in imminent danger’: Video shows violence after Utah prison allowed gangs to mingle

Corrections officials say they're doing all they can to keep the people in their custody safe, and policies at the new prison will help. Families of those on the inside say it's not enough.
5 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair, KSL TV

Get Gephardt: Surgeon no-shows for pre-paid procedure

Imagine paying for surgery, only to have the surgeon no-show. It happened to a Herriman woman, and when she couldn't get her money back, she decided it was time to Get Gephardt.
6 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt: Is your car spying on you?

KSL Investigates the privacy and security that you put at risk when your car is connected, and what to do about it.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
A KSL investigation finds thousands of Utah motorists could be incorrectly targeted by state’s insurance database