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This guy earned over $12,000 in fines for his vanity plates

A cautionary tale about vanity (and the DMV)

null vanity license plate
Image: Aurich Lawson

Ah, the humble automobile and the complicated relationship that Americans have with them. They get us to work, they get us to stores, they get us in hot water with the authorities…

Sometimes things just don’t work out like planned, as in the case of this security researcher who thought he was hacking the system with his vanity plates.

This hacker’s vanity plate landed him $12K in fines

“Droogie” as he’s known, decided that NULL would be the perfect vanity plates for him. Since that usually makes databases ignore entries, he thought that any future tickets would disappear into the ether once they hit the DMVs servers. He was wrong.

See, what Droogie didn’t count on is how the DMV categorizes tickets that it can’t assign to a specific car. He got one ticket, for a minor parking infraction, and once the system had his details associated with NULL, well you can guess what happened next, right?

Every single ticket that lacked a real license plate on it, whether it was because of no plates, bad handwriting or whatever, all got associated with his address, racking up $12,049 worth of tickets.

  • The California DMV eventually removed all the fines that weren’t actually his
  • Neither the LA Police Department or the California DMV were impressed, both advising him to change the plates
  • He’s still got the NULL plates, even after this
  • The database also hasn’t changed, with new NULL tickets still being assigned to him erroneously. The current total of wrongly assigned tickets? Another $6,000

Ah, the fun of databases. Droogie thought it’d be null sweat but it ended up being null and void.

What do you think? Should Droogie be forced to change out their plates? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at

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