Computer shutdown slams brakes on most services at DMV

A computer outage at Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Sacramento frustrated customers Tuesday with canceled appointments, long lines and limited services at dozens of branches including several in Southern California.

Officials apologized to its customers and said the outage, caused by a “catastrophic” hardware failure, should be resolved this morning.

Department officials said more than 100 offices were affected by the outage that began Monday.

Many customers who went to branches were met with the news of the faulty system.

DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez described the “internal issue” as a hardware failure that started at DMV headquarters in Sacramento.

“Crews have been working all night to rebuild the system and get offices back up and running,” a statement online reads.

“The offices that are still down will continue providing drive tests, making return appointments, helping with paperwork, and answering customers’ questions. The department wants to remind customers that DMV online services are still available and apologizes for any inconvenience this issue has caused.”

It was unclear when the systems would be restored, but officials in Sacramento said the systems were not hacked.

At the Santa Ana branch, there was no line out the door Tuesday afternoon like usual. But that wasn’t good news.

A DMV worker stood at the door informing customers the system was down and that they could try back later, or make an appointment.

Several customers rescheduled their appointments, but the earliest available dates were next month. A few dozen people sat inside the office anyway.

Orange resident Neil Warren, 35, said he had no choice but to wait.

He’s a salesman at Ford and Mazda of Orange and said he had tried since Friday to renew his sales license, which expired Monday, without success. The renewal must be done in person.

“I was real upset yesterday,” Warren said in between playing games on his cellphone. “I wanted to sell cars and make money.”

Warren said he got to the DMV office at 6:45 a.m. Monday and was third in line. But after learning that the system was down, he left to grab breakfast. When he returned, he had missed a 30-minute window when the system was up.


“I’m just sitting and waiting and watching and hoping,” he said.

Villa Park High School junior Jimmy Leczel, 16, had hoped to get his driving permit.

“I’m kind of bummed because I have to come back tomorrow,” Leczel said. “I thought I was closer to getting my license so I can drive places.”

The story was much the same at the Pasadena branch where it appeared only service kiosk and driving tests were available to customers.

Motorists in Torrance were facing expensive and inconvenient consequences. The registration sticker for Jeremy Miller’s car was sent to the wrong address. He was told to go to the DMV in person to resolve the issue, but when he arrived Tuesday afternoon they couldn’t help him.

Miller is headed out of town for the rest of the week and is stuck driving a car with out-of-date registration tags, which could result in a fine if he gets caught. His only other option is to wait for the sticker in the mail.

“I don’t know what to do. We’ll try again, obviously, because waiting four to six weeks isn’t a solution,” he said.

Also waiting in Torrance was Julie Lapper who said she was not warned her appointment was affected. She set a date two months ago to renew her license, which expires this week.

“It’s really annoying because it’s my lunch hour,” Lapper said. “They didn’t let me know, so I had to take time off work to get here and now I’ve got to come back Friday.”

Frustration gave way to anger for many customers when they were advised to travel to other DMV officers that were not affected.

Red Hillman of Chatsworth was turned away at the Winnetka branch, one of four affected in the San Fernando Valley. Customers at Winnetka were advised to go to Simi Valley, the closest office, 15 miles away.

“I’m not happy,” said Hillman, 56, who was trying to get a new van title. “I don’t know if I’ll go to Simi Valley or not — there may be a line.”

E.J. Gomez had an appointment in Winnetka. When he couldn’t renew his license he drove 22 miles to the Newhall branch only to find that it, too, was turning people away.

“Ridiculous,” Gomez, 48, of West Hills said. “I don’t know what to do.”

Staff writers Cynthia Washicko, Ryan Fonseca and Claudia Palma contributed to this report.

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