DOJ: News Release

Driver Licensing Workers Targets for Some Angry Customers

HELENA – State of Montana Motor Vehicle Division administrators said recently that staff members at driver license bureaus increasingly have become the targets of inappropriate, sometimes hostile behavior from customers.

In an effort to eliminate the distribution of fraudulent drivers’ licenses, the State of Montana requires anyone seeking a duplicate license, original license or state ID card to have some specific, valid forms of documentation. As guidelines for the documents have tightened – Montana’s changed in October 2000 – the incidence of verbal abuse and threats has increased.

Anita Drews-Oppedahl, chief of the Motor Vehicle Division’s Field Operations Bureau, estimated 19 field employees have resigned since October 2000. While Drews-Oppedahl acknowledged there are a number of reasons for the resignations, she said some workers have specifically cited the difficulty of enduring outbursts that include swearing, name-calling and threats.

“While the vast majority of our customers appreciate the service provided at stations throughout the state, a few are frustrated with the additional identification requirements,” Drews-Oppedahl said. “We want Montana residents to know that our procedures are not intended to complicate the process of replacing a license.

“These rules are in place to protect Montanans – indeed, all Americans.”

Dean Roberts, MVD administrator, said the protocols exist to help safeguard homeland security and prevent identity theft. Many of the terrorists tied to the events of September 11th, for example, used fraudulent licenses.

“From a security standpoint, we don’t want Montana to become the ‘weakest link’ in the nation,” Robert said. “If precautions are not taken, Montana could quickly become a one-stop shop for fraudulent state-issued identification. It’s the last thing we want to happen.”

Identity theft, meantime, is among the fastest growing crimes in the country. The 2001 Montana Legislature made theft of identity a crime punishable by fines up to $10,000 and jail time up to 10 years. A January report from the Federal Trade Commission said more than 86,000 people reported identity thefts in 2001.

“Identity theft costs consumers thousands of dollars, it compromises their privacy and destroys their credit,” Roberts said. “We want to make sure a Montana license is not the means for a criminal to steal someone else’s identity.”

Drews-Oppedahl stressed that for the regular renewal of a license, drivers only need to have a current license with them and, if needed, proof of a name change.

Roberts and Drews-Oppedahl had a few recommendations for residents in need of duplicate licenses, an original license or an ID card.

  • Any field office in the state can renew your license. It’s not mandatory to go to the station in your hometown or county.
  • Bring along the appropriate paperwork. Have the documents in order ahead of time and make sure they’re legitimate. A framed birth certificate with stamped baby footprints, for example, is not valid documentation.
  • For an original driver’s license or original ID card application, bring evidence of a physical residence, not a post office box. Examples include a voter registration card, an insurance policy or statement, a payroll check stub or a utility bill. Young people may bring a written statement from a parent or guardian and proof of the parent or guardian’s address.
  • Remember that MVD staff members are charged with keeping Montana licenses secure. They need and appreciate the public’s understanding and patience.

“Our staff members are doing what Montana law requires them to do,” Drews-Oppedahl said. “They have a difficult and very important job to do. We’re committed to serving Montana drivers and we’re committed to giving our employees the support they need to do their jobs well.”

And Roberts said the duties of those MVD staff members are considerably different than they were just a few years ago.

“It used to be all we were concerned about was a person’s ability to drive,” he said. “Now we have to be equally concerned about whether people really are who they say they are.”

  • Documents that may be used as proof of identity when seeking a duplicate driver license, an original driver license or a Montana ID card.
  • Proof of residency documents needed to verify a Montana residence address.

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