By on January 7, 2016

Clovis police car courtesy

Gather a bunch of factory guys together in a bar and you can smell the bullshit flying from a mile away.

In this case, the factory guys were myself and other field sales managers from American Honda Motor Company, and the bar was located inside the Marriott in Torrance, California. The talk turned to working with Honda dealerships.

“I made that dealer take more green del Sols, and I told him to build a new facility and to get his CSI up,” said Ed. “Then I screwed his daughter.”

CA Distributor Plate Courtesy, sure you did!

Shortly thereafter, the conversation turned to the new California Distributor license plates used by “import” car corporations on company-owned vehicles. The new version did not spell out the word “Distributor” and instead displayed the letters “DST.”

CA DST Plate Courtesy“The next time I get pulled over for speeding and the cop asks what ‘DST’ means,” said Tony, “I’ll say that it’s short for ‘District Attorney’ and I bet he will let me off with a warning.”

Haha, sure you will!

A few months later, I would attempt that very ticket-beating tactic myself.

In late 1993, our once-wonderful world at American Honda was going to hell.

We knew the federal indictments of current and former Honda sales and marketing division executives were imminent and the public would learn the sordid truth about our rumored shenanigans. Those of us not involved in the rampant corruption and fraud had been tainted by the actions of the guilty, and we were all probably on a fast track to the lawnmower division or, God forbid, Acura. I chose to bolt.

By pure coincidence and with perfect timing, I was given an opportunity to work for Honda’s advertising agency at their new regional office in Dallas. I jumped at the chance as I had previously been with Honda in Texas, and I was newly divorced. I tendered my resignation from Honda effective February 1, 1994 and headed to Dallas to buy a home over the Christmas holidays.

It all seems like a whirlwind now: I zipped the 1,400 miles from Los Angeles to Dallas in my company car — a green, 1992 Honda Accord Coupe five-speed manual with a new “DST” license plate plastered to its rear. I spent a week visiting old friends, purchased a house in Valley Ranch, and headed back to California on the morning of New Year’s Eve.


92 Accord Courtesy Tyson Hugie

What Steve’s Accord Coupe from that day probably looks like today.

I chose the northern route to go home, angling across the Texas panhandle with plans to pick up the I-40 in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. By mid-afternoon, I was cruising through desolate Clovis, New Mexico. I’m normally a very attentive driver, but I was tired and likely thinking about all my imminent life changes. Worse, I ignored all the warning signs of where and when not to speed: it was a holiday near a one-horse town and there was no traffic in front of me to block radar. Worst of all, I was on a hilly, two-lane highway with limited sight lines.

Coming over a rise at probably 15 mph over the limit, there he was parked on the right shoulder: a Clovis patrol car. A savvy officer, he was only turning on his radar gun when he saw a vehicle rather than being lazy and letting it run continuously. My Escort blared and I frantically downshifted so he would not see my brake lights. I saw him pull out. My right turn signal was on before he even hit his lights.

I pulled to the shoulder and assumed the position: radio off, window down, both hands on the wheel. He was a strapping young guy, probably a former lineman for the local high school football team. And, based on his grumpy demeanor, he was not happy to be working on New Year’s Eve. I figured he was a rookie working his first FNG shift. I could not engage him in any conversation.

Any chance of getting a warning, sir? “Nope.”

He took my license and registration back to his cruiser and wrote me up. He returned to my car and mechanically ran down the standard information about the ticket and how to pay it. And then his attitude suddenly softened and he asked:

“What kind of license plate is that, anyway?”

I have heard of people talking in tongues when under duress, but I never thought it would happen to me. Before I realized the implications, I heard myself saying: “Officer, I really don’t want to say. I don’t want to appear like I am pulling rank on you. You have a job to do and I’m guilty here.”

“What do you mean? Who are you?”

“That’s a District Attorney plate. I am a DA for Los Angeles County.”

He stared at me for what seemed like 30 seconds and then smiled for the first time.

“That’s great you did that! You won’t believe the number of Feds running around this state. When I stop them, the first thing they say is, ‘I’m a cop! I’m a cop!’ like that means they have immunity or something.”

He then proceeded to regale me with stories of pulling over the mayors of neighboring towns. He started to grill me about being a District Attorney. How many DAs do you have? I said 80. (I looked it up later and found the actual number was closer to 900.) I remember we talked about the criminals in the recent Rodney King riots in LA.

I then realized he was still holding my registration showing the Accord belonging to American Honda — not Los Angeles County. I start to envision perjury charges and New Year’s Eve in jail in Bumphuck, New Mexico. I was suddenly scared to death. This was not as much fun as we envisioned back at the Torrance Marriott. I had just lied to an LEO for the first time in my life.

After what seemed like an eternity, he handed me back the paperwork and said he would void my ticket. He thanked me again for being so “upstanding” and told me to “slow it down.”

I start shaking as I pulled away and realized that I needed to get out of New Mexico pronto. What if he is about to get off shift and tells his fellow officers about the LA County DA and they crack up? “Look at the registration, rookie!” What if there was an APB issued for a green Honda, California license plate number DST 3421?

After you get popped for speeding, you typically drive away at the speed limit for about 10 minutes and then say “screw it” and resume your normal speed. I crawled the remaining 375 miles across New Mexico at the speed limit, on high alert for police helicopters and roadblocks.

I was certain the agriculture check station at the New Mexico/Arizona line would have more patrol cars waiting for me than in the final scenes of the “Blues Brothers” movie, but none were to be found. I was home free.

At 11:30 that night, I asked the clerk at the Holiday Inn in Holbrook, Arizona where to celebrate the new year. She directed me to the local American Legion Hall down the street. I literally partied with cowboys and Indians that night, a nice end to a long day.

Six weeks later, as I drove a U-Haul truck to Dallas, I chose the southern route through New Mexico and stuck to the speed limit.

The Texas state line never looked so good.

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33 Comments on “New Year’s Eve, 1993: The Distributor Plate and the New Mexico Police...”

  • avatar

    Please correct headline photo to reflect accurate era Panther Interceptor! This won’t do.

  • avatar

    TTAC, you changed, so much ads, so much pop ups, your site just freezes. takes 30 seconds just to load a page, if it doesn’t crash my browser.

    • 0 avatar

      What he said. I run an ad-blocker program. I usually turn it down for sites I really like and want to see keep running. But nope. Not here. It hurts too much.
      It’s to the point where the site is totally unusable on my cell phone that doesn’t run an ad-blocker.

      • 0 avatar

        it’s like they don’t want people here.
        I’m here less and less because of the ads
        I don’t know what they are using, but it makes kinja feel perfect compared to this.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, this, exactly. Mark, if you want to show me ads, you need to make them less obtrusive. Make them like other sites and I’ll turn off adblock.

    • 0 avatar

      On mobile, it’s terrible for me. On PC, the site works fine, but for me, mobile isn’t a very good option to view TTAC.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah the ads and pop ups seem to be getting worse by the day. I was wondering if anyone else was having issues as well. I get a pop up blocked notification for every page navigation on this site. And I will never turn off pop up blockers for any site. That’s an ad method that needs to go away forever. I honestly thought legitimate sites stopped using them finally, it’s been so long since I’ve seen one.

        I’m ok with some ads mixed in with the page, I know they gotta make some money.

      • 0 avatar

        TTAC on a mobile browser is TERRIBLE.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree. This site makes my SHIELD tablet stutter. This is a tablet designed for graphics intensive games, but the TTAC ads still slow things down when using Chrome. Opera Mini works better simply by limiting flash content at the expense of reduced functionality.

          • 0 avatar

            I have a BB10 phone and its been running full html5 websites since 2013 but this site crashes the entire phone.

    • 0 avatar

      I can happily report that I have no idea what y’all are talking about. No chaff, just wheat; no ads, no freezes, no lag (well, OK, maybe a little lag). FWIW, my environment is Firefox 43.0.4 with the Adblock Plus extension on a generic Windows 7 PeeCee. Never been so desperate for car-truths that I had to resort to using a mobile device, so I have nothing to contribute on that front.

    • 0 avatar

      Wacko, I have Adblock Plus in Firefox, no problems at all – site runs perfectly. You might wish to try it.

      The best is, you set it up once and never have to touch it again.

    • 0 avatar

      for me, it’s OK on the PC running Chrome, iffy on phone chrome, and some stories (not all) I give up on they lock IE up so many times with cross site scripting and AR voice pop ups. It’s not equal from some pages to others. Dykes pieces I don’t even try on IE anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      Weird. On my previous iPhone 4S on iOS 6, I use chrome. On my PC with Firefox with a Ad-Block Plus and, on my new Android, I also use Firefox and, I still get no ads on all 3?

  • avatar

    Truly, the paranoia you endured driving the rest of the trip was a greater punishment than any ticket.

  • avatar

    I had 91 Accord Coupe – 5-speed – white – blue interior.

    Smooth engine, smooth shifting, reasonably quick and handled great, even with skinny tires.

    Drove it for more than ten years and then bought a 2003 Accord Sedan – 5-speed – hated that car. Uncomfortable seating, clunky brakes. Couldn’t wait to get rid of it.

    • 0 avatar

      Weird. From my perspective, one of the biggest improvements between my 1988 Accord and my 2004 TSX (a close relative of the 2003 Accord) was the seats. In the Accord, they never fit me right; too narrow and with hard cushioning in several wrong places. The TSX seats, for me, were near perfect.

      • 0 avatar

        Upgraded seats are one of the only two reasons to go from Accord to TLX nowadays as well ( the other being AWD).

        For some reason, the Accord comes with flat, squishy, non-bolstered seats. The TLX ones are MUCH nicer, and probably bolt in as well, seeing as they’re the same car…

  • avatar

    “It means Daylight Savings Time. It only works right on the east coast. Out here I’m three hours behind, which is why I was driving so fast.”

  • avatar

    I have never lied to police officers when pulled over for a traffic violation. I have managed to get out of multiple tickets in my younger days. When I worked as a paramedic I used to always keep my “high vis” rain coat or winter patrol jacket in my vehicle just in case I had to stop to render aid at an MVC. (I had to do that five times in a 500 mile trip). I found that it had the added benefit of getting me out of speeding tickets. They would see the jacket and give me a warning.

    I got stopped once by a young officer who was obviously from Quebec. He could barely speak English. I handed him my registration and licence. He looked at them and saw my name. He asked me if I could speak French. I replied in French and pointed out I was a bit rusty because of living in BC. He let me off with a warning.

    I was at a party once where things got really wild. It was crashed by a bunch of trouble makers and the police ended up being called. As the police were entering the premise one guy took a swing at an officer. He got taken down but when the officer grabbed him another fellow tried to jump him from behind. I grabbed the guy to prevent it. It turned out very lucky for me as I did this several officers came through the door and witnessed it. They all left me alone and started picking off everyone around me.

  • avatar

    Aww, somehow I missed “probably” in the caption with the Accord picture, and expected to hear a story of how the front got banged up and how you ended up buying the car from Honda and keeping it or whatever.

    Texas has always been bad on me as far as the law goes. The always F with me, and they never really have anything. Got a ticket for 72 at night (speed limit [email protected], 70 by day) at 8:30 am after he couldnt find drugs despite dumping my clothes, pillows and such on the shoulder. Because my clean, bone stock sedan in grey (not the car below) looked like a “typical drug dealer” car.

    My funniest (in retrospect) dealing with Texas law:
    I was in northern New Mexico in snow before I got out of the mountains heading for Texas (and beyond eventually). There was very light traffic on a very dry, clear highway, so I decided to put the cruise on 100 and make some time. No, Im not still in the habit of doing so.

    Anyway, after the snow area, I had stopped for fuel and cleaned the grime left by melting snow off my tail lamps and rear window (and the emblems I admit lol). I could still read the license plate just fine, so I left it dirty.

    So here I am doing 100 through New Mexico, and a first gen (new or near new at the time) Dodge Stratus ES V-6 starts in behind me (at a safe distance) and we rolled at 100 together for quite a while…until we entered Texas and merged onto a far more congested highway, so I dropped to a reasonable 5 mph over the limit. Just a few miles later, there is a State Trooper sitting under an overpass out side of his car. He points to me and then the shoulder, so I pull over. He drives up to me and walks up, tells me the reason he pulled me over was because I had an unclean license plate.

    The car only had a rear plate, a front plate isnt issued in the state it was registered in. How did he see my license plate when the car was facing him when he directed me to pull over?

    After 30-45 minutes of grilling (never once mentioned speed or speeding, just what was I doing, where was I going, why, bla bla trying to catch me in a lie unsuccessfully), he finally issues me a ticket for “Unclean license plate” with a fine of $0. Not a warning, but a ticket with no fine. I still have it in a keepsakes box. So much for “making time” lol.

    Vehicle was a 1992 Ford Tempo LX V-6 (with a 92 Topaz XR-5 120 mph speedometer, which is how I knew I was going 100 mph, it topped out @rev limiter @127mph btw).

    • 0 avatar

      Another incident: I was listening to a political talk radio show while passing through Texas, and decided to call in from my cell phone. Well, the producer said there was too much background noise, so I said I would pull over. He said that was fine and he would put me on when the break ended.

      I stopped at a very desolate farm access road off the highway several hundred feet, and turned my parking lamps only on (was dusk). I was safely parked in a gravel area.

      Im not on the air 3 minutes talking with the host when all Texas state troopers within 100 miles are decending on me. I had to excuse myself live on the air because of all the flashing lights and officers walking up. The host made a joke about not telling them I was talking to him or theyd arrest me for sure, which I laughed at as I put the window down.

      I was informed this was no laughing matter by the officer at my window. I ended the call.

      Evidently there was a hit and run elsewhere, they thought it was me and I was hiding. My car had no body damage whatsoever (and wouldve been nearly invisible if Id turned off the parking lights, so if I was hiding…). After noting that, one said something about a report of someone who hit a deer and that’s who they were looking for. So, someone, somewhere in Texas hits a deer and every lawman on duty rushes to the scene to investigate?!

      They ended up letting me go after a few minutes. No real explination.

      Its like every time I pass through Texas, I have a “Fxxx The Police!” sign in my back window. I make an effort to avoid passing through Texas now, and thats a shame because I like it otherwise.

      • 0 avatar

        I got pulled over once on my way home from a night on the town around 3:00 AM. I hadn’t been drinking so I wasn’t too worried and my truck was new’ish’. I was puzzled that the officer wasn’t approaching my vehicle. His cruiser was also parked out in the road. I realized that he suspected I was a “bad-ass”. I had my registration and licence out and I put both of my hands high on the steering wheel where he could see them. Another unit arrived and he then approached me. I noticed his gun was in his holster but all of the restraints were open. The other officer had his shotgun at the ready. He asked me where I was coming from and took my papers. He then returned and apologized for the heavy handed approach. He stated that a truck very similar to mine was seen leaving the scene of a violent assault.
        A buddy of mine one summer got pulled over several times by officers with guns drawn. The third time around an officer told him that he looked just like a drug dealer with a history of weapons violence and the guy had the same make and model of car. It sounds clichéd, but the officer told him to get a haircut and sell the car. He did just that and never had a problem after that.

  • avatar

    Yeah, not afraid to admit I wouldn’t have the guts (not to mention I could lose my law license if caught in a scam like that).

    I have very low number plates on all three of my cars and have occasionally been asked if they mean I’m in the government. I laugh and say no. Could probably scare a few people by putting any of the plates on a white base-model Impala or Prius, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Lynch

      True! I had this Texas plate for years: “003.” Plus once on the personalized Texas state capitol plate. Did have an officer (not during a traffic stop) ask about it, told him the truth!

    • 0 avatar

      dal20402 – My mother used to have a blue ’84 Chrysler LeBaron that looked a lot like the Dodge Diplomats used by police. Occasionally I’d have to borrow it and always got a kick out of the fact that people thought it was a police car. Often on the highway speeders would hammer on the brakes. My all-time favourite incident was when I was coming home from closing down a bar around 2:00 AM, I saw a dude walking down the street with a heavy duffle bag over his shoulder. He sees me and the LeBaron. He thinks I’m a cop and panics and bolts down a back alley. Being young and full of piss and vinegar I turned down the alley. I started clicking the high beams on and off to imitate a PC’s “wig wags”. The dude was sh!tting himself trying to throw all of the stuff out of his duffle bag over fences. He ended scaling a tall fence to get away from me.

  • avatar

    A good story Steve , thanx for sharing it along with all the interesting replies .

    Before I worked for The City I occasionally got pulled over in Northwest Division of Los Angeles late at night (more like early morning) with full felony stop procedures .

    After a few moments where I didn’t make any movements , they’d come back to my old beat to shit car laughing and say ” you don’t look Black , 7′ + tall armed and dangerous plus this car is a piece of shit ” .

    Apparently less than 5 miles from me lived a very bad man =8-) .

    Now I always carry my issued ID with my driver’s license and give it over at the same time .

    The CHP’s usually ask ” what’s this , some sort of no ticket crap ?” .

    I reply ‘ no , the sergeant tells me I have to identify myself in any LEO interaction .

    Depending on what stupid thing I’ve done , I might get a warning instead of a ticket .

    I’m almost always guilty of whatever they stopped me for so I don’t waste their time on bullshit , I know they’ve hear it all and better than I could ever think up .


  • avatar

    Great story, Steve!

    I have had a “stop texting” magnet on the back of my Civic for the last 3-4 years. (They are free from some hospital system near Quakertown, PA, where I have friends.) Since I put it on the car, I’ve been stopped twice and given warnings.

  • avatar

    I got pulled over 15 or more years ago by a sheriff’s deputy in Arizona. I was doing maybe 5-7 over in a bright red press fleet Toyota Celica. He ran the plate and then did a full felony stop. Told me the car was stolen…came back to a 1970s-era Benz. Took me a while to figure out that he’d entered the plate as a standard California license plate with “DST” as the letters followed by whatever the numbers on the plate were. I had to explain distributor’s plates to him.

  • avatar

    Nice house Steve. Thanks for sharing.

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