What can happen? A license suspension, or the involvement of debt collection agencies?
There being no federal preemption of the matter, states have the power to regulate operation of motor vehicles on public highways, and the main manifestation of this is via licensing requirements. Indeed, §40 of the state constitution allows and regulates taxation of motor vehicles. RCW 46.16A.030(1-2) requires registration for all vehicles (not just commercial vehicles, which are defined in 46.16A.10 and are subject to different registration requirements):
Vehicles must be registered as required by this chapter and must display license plates or decals assigned by the department.
(2) It is unlawful for a person to operate any vehicle on a public highway of this state without having in full force and effect a current and proper vehicle registration and displaying license plates on the vehicle.
RCW 46.16A.030(5) further states that
Failure to renew an expired registration before operating a vehicle on the public highways of this state is a traffic infraction.
RCW 46.20.289 then says that the DOL
shall suspend all driving privileges of a person when the department receives notice from a court ... that the person has failed to respond
but that is limited to "moving violations":
a notice of traffic infraction for a moving violation, failed to appear at a requested hearing for a moving violation, violated a written promise to appear in court for a notice of infraction for a moving violation, or has failed to comply with the terms of a notice of traffic infraction, criminal complaint, or citation for a moving violation,
"moving violation" means any violation of vehicle laws listed in this section that is committed by the driver of a vehicle, while the vehicle is moving.
The offense is operating a vehicle (not possessing a vehicle), this driving with expired tabs is a moving violation. License suspensions have happened to at least 300,000 people, but I know of no statistics on how many one-time offenders of the tab requirement get their license suspended.
True, RCW 46.16A.030(5) states that failure to renew an expired registration before operating a vehicle on the public highways of this state is a traffic infraction. However, the definitions section, RCW 46.16A.010 defines who RCW 46.16A.030(5) applies to, and it only applies to operators using their vehicles for commercial purposes. ``Used for commercial purposes'' means the carriage of persons or property for any fare, fee, rate, charge or other consideration, or directly or indirectly in connection with any business, or other undertaking intended for profit[.]" 18 U.S.C. 31. The driver's license, registration, and even insurance requirements are based on the definition in RCW 46.16A.010. A vehicle not used for commercial activity is a consumer good and not the type of vehicle required to be registered and the “use tax” paid of which the tab is evidence of receipt of the tax.” Bank of Boston vs Jones, 4 UCC Rep. Serv. 1021, 236 A2d 484, UCC PP 9-109.14. There are a lot of other cases supporting what I've stated; look them up. Get a law dictionary and look up the terms in the code; they get you with the legalese. Driver or operator, for example, means someone who uses public roadways as a place of business and therefore must pay for that privilege, i.e. obtain a driver's registration and driver's license.
U.C.C. - ARTICLE 9 - SECURED TRANSACTIONS; SALES OF ACCOUNTS AND CHATTEL PAPER
PART 1. SHORT TITLE, APPLICABILITY AND DEFINITIONS
§ 9-109. Classification of Goods: “Consumer Goods”; “Equipment”; “Farm Products”; “Inventory”.
(1) “consumer goods” if they are used or bought for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes;
(2) “equipment” if they are used or bought for use primarily in business (including farming or a profession) or by a debtor who is a non-profit organization or a governmental subdivision or agency or if the goods are not included in the definitions of inventory, farm products or consumer goods;
Relevant applicable stare decisis case cites relating directly to UCC 9-109:
“Under UCC §9-109 there is a real distinction between goods purchased for personal use and those purchased for business use. The two are mutually exclusive and the principal use to which the property is put should be considered as determinative.” James Talcott, Inc. v Gee, 5 UCC Rep Serv 1028; 266 Cal.App.2d 384, 72 Cal.Rptr. 168 (1968).
“The classification of goods in UCC §9-109 are mutually exclusive.” McFadden v Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co., 8 UCC Rep Serv 766; 260 Md 601, 273 A.2d 198 (1971).
“Automobile purchased for the purpose of transporting buyer to and from his place of employment was ``consumer goods'' as defined in UCC §9-109.” Mallicoat v Volunteer Finance & Loan Corp., 3 UCC Rep Serv 1035; 415 S.W.2d 347 (Tenn. App., 1966).
“The provisions of UCC §2-316 of the Maryland UCC do not apply to sales of consumer goods (a term which includes automobiles, whether new or used, that are bought primarily for personal, family, or household use).” Maryland Independent Automobile Dealers Assoc., Inc. v Administrator, Motor Vehicle Admin., 25 UCC Rep Serv 699; 394 A.2d 820, 41 Md App 7 (1978).
Federal Case Law Confirms
IN RE BARNES
United States District Court,
D Maine, September 15, 1972
Bankruptcy No. BK 72-129ND, No. EK 72-13OND
 Consumer goods - automobile for transportation to and from work.
The use of a vehicle by its owner for purposes of traveling to and from his employment is a personal, as opposed to a business use, as that term is used in UCC § 9-109(l), and the vehicle will be classified as consumer goods rather than equipment.
The phraseology of § 9-109(2) defining equipment as goods used or bought for use primarily in business seems to contemplate a distinction between the use of collateral “in business” and the mere use of the collateral for some commercial, economic or income-producing purpose by one not engaged “in business.”
The appropriate filing place turns upon the classification of the collateral as consumer goods or equipment. The Uniform Commercial Code classifies goods as consumer goods
“. . . if they are used or bought for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes. (2). Fn (2) 11 MRSA § 9-109(1).
It is the court's opinion that the use of a vehicle by its owner for purposes of traveling to and from his employment is a “personal,” as opposed to a business use, as that term is used in UCC § 9-109 (1). The phraseology of UCC § 9-109 (2), defining “equipment” as goods used or bought for use primarily “in business” seems to contemplate a distinction between the use of collateral “in business,” and the mere use of the collateral for some commercial, economic or income-producing purpose by one not engaged “in business.”
Traveling to and from work is a PERSONAL use NOT a BUSINESS use!
This ruling is consistent with the undisputed fact that “The classification of goods is determined by its primary use” (Barron’s Law Dictionary, Third Edition, 1991) and not by the type of goods, including, but not limited to, vehicles:
CONSUMER GOODS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO BE REGISTERED!
“A vehicle not used for commercial activity is a “consumer goods”, . . . it is NOT a type of vehicle required to be registered and “use tax” paid of which the tab is evidence of receipt of the tax.” Bank of Boston v. Jones, 4 UCC Rep. Serv. 1021, 236 A2d 484, UCC PP 9-109.14.
“Thus self-driven vehicles are classified according to the use to which they are put rather than according to the means by which they are propelled.” Ex Parte Hoffert, 148 NW 20.
“The Supreme Court, in Arthur v. Morgan, 112 U.S. 495, 5 S.Ct. 241, 28 L.Ed. 825, held that carriages were properly classified as household effects, and we see no reason that automobiles should not be similarly disposed of.” Hillhouse v United States, 152 F. 163, 164 (2nd Cir. 1907).
“A soldier's personal automobile is part of his “household goods[.]” U.S. v Bomar, C.A.5(Tex.), 8 F.3d 226, 235” 19A Words and Phrases - Permanent Edition (West) pocket part 94.
“... [T]he exemptions provided for in section 1 of the Motor Vehicle Transportation License Act of 1925 (Stats. 1925, p. 833) in favor of those who solely transport their own property or employees, or both, and of those who transport no persons or property for hire or compensation, by motor vehicle, have been determined in the Bacon Service Corporation case to be lawful exemptions. --In re Schmolke (1926) 199 Cal. 42, 46.
“The right of a citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon in the ordinary course of life and business is a common right which he has under his right to enjoy life and liberty.... It includes the right in so doing to use the ordinary and usual conveyances of the day; and under existing modes of travel includes the right to drive a horse-drawn carriage or wagon thereon, or to operate an automobile thereon for the usual and ordinary purposes of life and business. It is not a mere privilege, like the privilege of moving a house in the street, operating a business stand in the street, or transporting persons or property for hire along the street, which the city may permit or prohibit at will.” --Thompson v. Smith, 154 S.E. 579.
“In view of this rule a statutory provision that the supervising officials “may” exempt such persons when the transportation is not on a commercial basis means that they “must” exempt them.” --State v. Johnson, 243 P. 1073; 60 C.J.S. section 94, page 581.