The Secretary of State on Thursday issued new guidance to motorists who have been unable to register or re-register their vehicles during the pandemic: If you can register your vehicle, do it as soon as possible.

“The short version is if you have a vehicle with an expired registration or no registration, get it done as soon as you can,” said Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

If your city or town office is still closed and there is no way for you register your vehicle online — or if you purchased a new car in private sale and your town office is still not accepting excise tax payments — a temporary registration letter provided by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be accepted by police until facilities reopen.

The new guidance follows a new executive order by Gov. Janet Mills, and corrects some aspects of a previous executive order that made it impossible for people to drive a vehicle they bought during a private sale. The new guidance permits motorists to drive a privately purchased vehicle without a license plate until they are able to register as usual.

Motorists who live where town offices remain closed or who are unable to register their vehicle for other reasons will still be permitted to drive so long as they are insured and carry with them an exemption letter that serves as a temporary registration during the pandemic. As cities and towns reopen their tax offices, motorists who live in those municipalities will have until July 11, or whatever deadline the town sets that may be sooner, to register their vehicles.

“In short, if a municipality or Bureau of Motor Vehicle Office are open and able to register vehicles, the registrant must do so immediately,” the state wrote in a question-and-answer  document sent to law enforcement “If an owner’s municipality is not open for business, then the registration requirement remains extended.”

Anyone who bought a vehicle in a private sale or received a vehicle through a transfer of ownership and is unable to register because of town office closures or other circumstances is permitted to drive the vehicle without a license plate as long as the vehicle is insured and they carry the temporary registration letter, proof of title transfer or a bill of sale.

Transferring plates from one vehicle to another is still impossible where town offices are closed, so motorists who wish to transfer a plate should drive without plates until the transfer can be completed when their town office or Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch reopens.

Many population centers around the state use an online service to renew registrations for people who have already paid sales tax after buying a car or trailer. The rapid renewal system is still operating and anyone who can re-register their vehicles using rapid renewal are encouraged to do so.

Anyone with questions about the registration process during the Coronavirus pandemic should call the secretary of state’s office.

The Secretary of State’s office also issued new guidance to police departments regarding enforcement of the new provisions, including a Q&A:

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