About six years ago, my daughter received a speeding ticket in a tiny town in Central Texas. She was going something like 70 in a 35. Her excuse was that she could see the 70mph sign, though she had not actually passed it yet. Yeah.
At the time of the citation, she was married to her now ex-husband. Her driver’s license was valid and issued by the State of Colorado. The officer asked for her current address and she gave him ours, since she was in the process of divorcing and was staying with us (in Texas) at the time. So far, so good.
Well, somehow, her name got garbled up. She has first, middle, and last names. On the citation, those three names are in the wrong order. One of them is no longer her name at all. She is remarried and uses her husband’s last name. At the time, my daughter tried to pay the fine. The City of Speedtrap returned the payment saying that they could find no citation to which to apply the payment. So, she let it go.
Now, my daughter repeatedly gets a letter from some law firm representing the City of Speedtrap. They are demanding payment. The name on the letter is the name of someone who does not exist. The CO license is no longer active. Any warrant derived from it would have the name of a nonexistent person. My daughter, who does exist, lives in Michigan and has a valid driver’s license up there.
At this point, is there anything that the fine people of Speedtrap, Texas, could do to my daughter? Even if she were to collect another speeding ticket there, the name and license she would give the officer would be different than the ones from six years ago. Since she legitimately attempted to pay the fine and was rebuffed, I don’t think she has a moral obligation to pay the fine.
They could try to put it on a credit report.
Yeah, but they don’t have any correct identifying information.
Does this law firm actually represent the city, or did it buy the debt for pennies on the dollar?
Since this involves legal advice, let’s move it to IMHO.
General Questions Moderator
Bingo. Without proper name or SSN, they got nothing.
Now if they have proper ID somenow, from the speed trap who did sell the info to the dirt bags collection agency, you might need to pay. I’d ignore and challenge any credit report change.
Some DMVs have your SSN so they might have it for her.
Seems like the simplest answer is for her to pay the fine that she owes and never actually paid. 70 in a 35 is crazy. She should stop trying to find a loophole to get out of what she legitimately owes.
Look up the statute of limitations and see if it’s reasonable to wait it out if it’s not there already.
She did try to pay, city of speedtrap wouldn’t let her. Considering how everything has gone wrong from the beginning, starting with the officer screwing up the name on the ticket, what makes you confident the bill collectors are going to correctly close the books on it?
My suggestions would be to either ignore it, it’s likely close to the point where they can’t collect it anyway or if she still has the letter saying she doesn’t owe the city anything, send the collections agency a copy of that and/or ask them for proof that she owes the money.
When she changed her name on any revised drivers license that got recorded somewhere and likely forwarded up the chain to previous government entities, ‘gotcha.
Not paying a ticket is technicality an offense. If she has any professional licenses she will be asked to report that when she renews and risks her livelihood if she doesn’t come clean. ‘Gotcha.
The officer recorded her car registration and insurance info, that goes into a database and can be shared or tracked. Not telling your insurer of tickets can invalidate your extent of coverage or be cause to raise your premiums when they do find out-and they will. ‘Gotcha again.
Seems less angst to bite the bullet, pay the ticket and let it go.
It might be a good idea to have her call the solicitor’s office of the county it occurred in and see if it’s in their system and explain the situation. If you give a valid and detailed explanation they may cut you a break and reduce the fine or whatever.
I got a ticket for going 65 in a 35 in a speed trap in Texas. the 35 zone was one block long and I was pulled over next to the sign saying the speed limit was 65. This was 8 or 9 years ago now. When I got the ticket it was for like $700. I thought the whole thing was bullshit and the fine exorbitant so I refused to pay the ticket or show up for court.
For several years I got letters from the town saying there was a warrant out for my arrest and I could make it go away by paying them $1,000+ dollars. I ignored those too. I’ve been pulled over 3 times since then in two different states (neither Texas) and nothing has ever come from the warrant.
The letters stopped as I moved around the country and the little bit of worrying I did faded and then about a year ago I got a call from someone claiming to be the sheriff of the town and he wanted to collect the money they were owed or he would show up and arrest me. I couldn’t help but laugh at him and hang up. I’ve received no more call or letters. Aside from a story to commiserate about bullshit speed traps I don’t see any harm in ignoring it.
I don’t think anyone is trying to find a loophole to get out of the ticket. She was going too fast. She did it. She stopped when the flashing lights came on. She provided the officer with true and accurate information as it was at the time. She even corrected her address since her living situation had changed since she got the Colorado driver’s license. She attempted to pay the ticket (which was nowhere near $700!) by the required deadline. She was denied. It seems to me that she complied with every consequence of her infraction. How many times is she required to pay her debt to society?
The law firm appears to be a legit law firm from another tiny town. The letter doesn’t read like a debt collection letter. I think they actually represent the city rather than own the debt themselves. I have a friend in my town who is the city attorney for several municipalities in the area. I suspect she sends out these letters, too, though I hope she puts the correct names on hers.
Getting married with a new name is not a good reason to not pay a traffic ticket. If it was then millions of married women would not pay tickets.
There was a town , I think in Ohio or near there, where basically the entire budget was paid from a speed trap. Eventually the town was disbanded but it took a while.
IANAL, but if my understand of law is correct, it seems that if the ticket was a legit violation and was never paid, they could keep demanding payment, keep adding penalties, and depending on the statutes they have on the books, issue a bench warrant for willful failure to pay. You can’t typically get tossed in the clink for speeding, but you typically can get jailed or otherwise punished for ignoring a fine.
I’d pay it.
But how can she pay it if they keep getting her name wrong, and won’t accept it?
Seems to me the best course of action is to try and sit down and talk with these new people about what actually happened. Include the letter she got as a response when she tried to pay, and they told her she didn’t owe anything.
I think paying without talking to them first would be dumb, as you could just get a repeat of the same situation all over again. But ignoring it is also bad for the reasons others state.
So talking to them is the only choice.
Never acknowledge a debt from a debt collector. Ever. In this case, if there is a summons or an official citation, certainly you have to heed that. But a debt collector? They’re trying to intimidate you into paying a bill.
Let’s say they buy 1000 unpaid debts totaling $100,000 that the organization the money is owed to knows they’ll never collect. That organization packaged them and sold the information to the collector for $10,000 just to get something out of it. The collection agency, in turn, needs only to collect a third of that to cover their costs and make some money. They know most people aren’t going to pay, but a small number of people are moved by threats and intimidation. They also know that once you acknowledge a debt they have you, because that’s evidence in civil proceedings that you owe it, and refusal after that is actionable.
So the best thing to do is simply ignore it altogether, or if you feel like you must pay it deal with the original debtor.
As for the potential for arrest, you can usually find out if there is a warrant out for you, and the easiest way to not get served with that warrant in any case is to not get pulled over.
A lawyer once advised me that it’s a good idea to keep copies of receipts and correspondence in your car(s). As this situation shows, courts sometimes mess up on the paperwork. Maybe it gets lost or delayed or misfiled or whatever. So when you get something in the mail that says, “You don’t owe anything” or whatever, you should make a copy and keep it in the glove compartment. Then if/when the court issues a bench warrant (because someone finally found it or filed it) and you get stopped for a burned out tail light, you can show the officer.
Another alternative is being hauled in on a Friday night, put in jail for the weekend, till the judge sorts it out on Monday.
If ‘these new people’ are the debt collectors, that’s likely a waste of time.
It would be, IMO, much more productive to call the original police department, explain to them that you tried to pay the ticket 6 years ago and got a letter stating you, in fact, don’t have any tickets requiring payments so you need them to contact the collection agency and sort it out. Even if ‘sorting it out’ means paying the police dept directly.
The debt collectors don’t care about your story. They have a debt and they only thing they’re going to do is attempt to collect it, full stop. At best, you can demand proof that you owe the money and they have a time limit to provide you with that. If they can’t get the proof or the time expires, they have to stop attempting to collect it.
About 15 years ago I had a hospital billing department send my file to a collections agency by mistake. It took about a dozen calls to the hospital to get it sorted out (and it was eventually sorted out), but every time I called and explained to them that they needed to get my file out of collections, the first thing they always started with was telling me I need to contact the collection agency. I always pushed back and explained that no, you need to contact them. You put me in collections by accident and I’m not going to be on record as having any conversations with them.
They did get it sorted out, but it took a few months and a lot of calls.