Amanda Schweickert wants a chance to tell her side of the story.
Yes, she was pulled over and arrested after an Erie County sheriff’s deputy spotted the fake license plate on her car.
The painted cardboard didn’t fool the deputy.
And yes, her run-in with the law went viral, a full-color photo of the homemade blue-and-yellow plate appearing in People and Time and on ABC and CBS.
“Everyone knows me,” Schweickert said Saturday. “Even people I don’t know know me.”
What people didn’t learn from the stories about Schweickert’s creative but unlawful act – and there were many – is why she did it.
The 28-year-old single mother wanted to keep her job, she says. And her car was essential to working and putting aside enough money to eventually pay the Buffalo parking ticket and $120 fine that took away her plates.
After several weeks of scrutiny on the Web, some of it critical, some of it supportive, none of it expected, Schweickert said she felt compelled to come forward and explain why she did what she did.
“My intentions were good,” she said. “I want people to understand. I didn’t do it for kicks. I didn’t have the money. I was really trying, really struggling.”
Because of the media attention and subsequent fallout, she doesn’t want her two sons named. She does, however, feel the need to respond to her critics, most of them protected by the Web’s anonymity.
Her story, she says, began last fall, when her car insurance lapsed and she lost the plates to her car. When she tried to re-register the car several months later, she learned that a parking ticket in Buffalo was holding up her registration.
That’s when she created the now infamous yellow-and-blue cardboard license plate that got her into trouble.
A Springville native, she was driving on North Street in the village earlier this month when a sheriff’s deputy stopped her and noticed the rear plate fashioned to look like a New York State plate.
Schweickert, who was still without a registration or insurance, was charged with felony possession of a forged instrument, driving with a suspended registration and ticketed for three traffic infractions. She was also sent to the Erie County Holding Center and held on $400 bail.
Now out and awaiting another appearance in Springville Village Court, Schwieckert says she knows what she did was wrong, but she wants people to understand what was it that prompted her to break the law.
She was working at a local hotel, a job she has since lost, and said she needed the car to get back and forth to work.
“My main purpose was to make sure my rent was paid,” the Sardinia woman said. “That and to make sure I saved up enough to pay the parking fine.”
Schweickert says she’s well aware of the dangers of driving without a registration and insurance. What if she had hit someone else?
You get the sense that her fake plate and subsequent arrest put her under a very large spotlight, and that her moment of notoriety has left her feeling exploited.
“People read about it in the paper and hear about on the news, but no one understands why I did what I did,” she said Saturday.
Schweickert says she’s hoping the courts will be more understanding. She is scheduled to reappear in Springville Village Court next month.