Home video taken by Hialeah resident Juan Santana shows police Officer Sandra St. Germain removing the license plate of a vehicle parked outside of his home in early April of this year.
On the video, Santana, who plans on running for mayor of Hialeah, asks the officer, "Why are you stealing my tag?"
The car, which was registered to Santana's wife, was parked in the easement outside of the gate of his house when the incident happened. On the video the officer can be heard explaining that she was seizing the tag because it was suspended for lack of insurance.
"As of February 18th it’s been suspended for financial responsibility," St. Germain says in the video.
The officer – a 37-year veteran of the Hialeah Police Department who is known for her traffic enforcement – later quotes Florida State Statute 324.201(3). It reads in part that if a law enforcement officer determines that someone operating a motor vehicle is its owner or registrant, and is operating it with a suspended driver’s license or registration, the officer should immediately seize the vehicle’s license plate.
Santana says he was not operating the vehicle at the time and was actually inside his home when the officer showed up.
On Tuesday, NBC 6 reported on another incident involving Santana – a cell phone duel between him and retired Hialeah police officer Glenn Rice.
Ted Hollander of The Ticket Clinic law firm reviewed the license plate video and says the officer should not have taken the tag.
"The statute says that the vehicle must be in operation, meaning being driven by the owner of the vehicle," he says.
Hollander adds that "running around unscrewing tags off parked vehicles is completely not allowed by Florida law."
Santana says the incident cost him money. He had to pay $70 for another tag.
"Honestly, I am on a fixed income right now, it's a burden on me, my wife, my family, this is just another way of them harassing me," he says.
NBC 6 told Hialeah Police officials Hollander's interpretation of the law and they agreed to look into the matter and get back to the station about it.