California Man’s Plot to Avoid Tickets With ‘NULL’ Vanity Plate Nets Him $12K in Fines

After being told by the DMV and LAPD to change his plates, the I.T. professional refused, saying “No, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

byChris Tsui| UPDATED Dec 13, 2021 12:52 PM
California Man’s Plot to Avoid Tickets With ‘NULL’ Vanity Plate Nets Him $12K in Fines

A California man recently devised a cunning plot to never be held responsible for any parking or traffic tickets ever again—a plot that spectacularly backfired, according to Mashable.

Recounting his experience at this year's DEF CON hacking conference, an information security researcher who goes by the handle "Droogie" cheekily attempted to fool the DMV's computer system by registering a vanity plate that read "NULL," the computer programming shorthand for a non-existent value. If all went to plan, any and all tickets issued to the plate "NULL" would, at the end of the day, be issued to no plate at all.

As anyone with a modicum of programming experience will attest, these things rarely go as planned. "I was like, 'I'm the sh*t,'" Droogie told the audience. "'I’m gonna be invisible.' Instead, I got all the tickets."

Things seemed fine for the uneventful first year he owned the plate but when he tried to renew the tags, entering "NULL" into the California DMV's online registration renewal site broke the page. Shortly after that, Droogie's car got slapped with a parking ticket, an event that triggered thousands of dollars worth of tickets to be mailed to his house, all addressed to him. All in all, Droogie appeared to be on the hook for over $12,000 in fines.

Apparently, a privately operated citation processing center kept a database of outstanding tickets attributed to a NULL plate—these are tickets with missing or incomplete plate data, not plates that literally read "NULL," like the one Droogie owns. Unfortunately for the California I.T. professional, the system in question wasn't sophisticated enough to differentiate the two inputs, automatically sending all NULL tickets his way. 

"Basically, this is bullsh*t," said Droogie.

When he contacted both the DMV and Los Angeles Police Department to explain what was happening, both government agencies simply told him to change his plate. Droogie, however, stubbornly refused. "I said, 'No, I didn’t do anything wrong.'"

The citation processing center eventually canceled the original $12,000 debt but didn't actually do anything to fix the software bug. As of right now, Droogie says the system shows $6,000 in tickets attributed to his "NULL" plate and has zero plans of paying any of it.