And we even broke up soon after =(
March 28, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Drove ex-gf to California, got a ticket, asked for extension (or to appeal?) and forgot about it. Never got a response and now a law firm in El Paso is trying to collect about $250. What are my options?

I got a speeding ticket a couple years ago and I sent in a fax requesting either an extension or to appeal (I forgot which) - unfortunately I never got a response and NEVER FOLLOWED UP. That was very stupid of me. I just received a letter from a law firm in El paso, TX (I got the ticket in Sierra Blanca, TX - very close to El Paso) trying to collect about $250.

1) What options do I have? Is this price up for negotiation? I would like to reduce this number a bit if possible. (I also recently took a defensive driving class for insurance discount, just fyi)

2) I am trying to buy a house right this going to effect my credit (or is the damage already done)?

Thank you for your help. I know getting in touch with a lawyer may be my best option but I would just like to be a cheap and lazy person for now and ask MeFites.
posted by jstarlee to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Best answer: What did they say when you called the county and asked about your ticket?
posted by gum at 10:25 AM on March 28, 2010

Not to increase your worries, but I believe that even if you pay the amount, that will not take care of a bench warrant if one has been issued. I also believe that you must petition to take defensive driving on or before the court date (so it's too late for that).

Is paying the $250 completely out of the question for you? Either way, I'd try to find out if there's a warrant.
posted by Houstonian at 10:30 AM on March 28, 2010

Call the court house and talk to a clerk. That is the only way to get any accurate info on your case.
posted by special-k at 10:46 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may have a warrant for a failure to appear, but here in CA that is more or less a fix-it ticket unless you get pulled over again. That is, if you make a court date and show up to it, they may throw out the FTA and just fine you plain and simple. No random law firm payments necessary. The firm is probably just trolling the county warrants and sending out free-money (for them) spam.
posted by rhizome at 11:12 AM on March 28, 2010

Unless I'm missing something, the facts, as stated, don't make much sense. Why would a law firm try to collect money for services they haven't provided?

Are you sure it's a law firm that sent the bill, and not the court system. Or is the law firm trying to make some rain by soliciting your business? Perhaps they sifted through old bench warrants or open cases, found yours, and are offering to clear this up for you.

It would seem to be highly irregular for a court to find you guilty in absentia, then refer the fine and court costs to a law firm for collections. If I were you, I'd re-read that letter carefully, to see if the facts aren't somewhat different that stated.
posted by dinger at 11:14 AM on March 28, 2010

dinger, the law firm is representing the county.
posted by Houstonian at 11:21 AM on March 28, 2010

Best answer: dinger, you know how a lot of the legal AskMe questions have a "get a lawyer to write a letter and the other party will back off" type answer? In this case, it sounds like the attorney is the debt collector. Then again, the county could have hired a regular debt collection agency pretending to be a lawyer which is very illegal.

But it would make the best sense to call the ticket issuing county (Hudspeth County I think) and talk to them. Some of those small counties and towns along I10 make boatloads of money from speeding tickets and this one is seems to go to collection agents to get every last dime. But you're also going to be interested in if there's a warrant out for your failure to appear. The county court could say they've sold the debt to someone else and you have deal with the collection agency or they could deal with it right over the phone. When I got a ticket in one of these counties a few years ago, they had a pay by credit card option on their phone tree.

The price is probably not up for negotiation at this point. $250 is pretty cheap for a West Texas speeding ticket that is a few years old. Pay them and move on.

But if you ignore it, it could get worse if the collection agent/lawyer continues to collect and takes you to court and they issue a judgement against you. That would show up on your credit report and dings your credit score much more than say paying your visa bill late. And then there's the possibility of a bench warrant being out against you.
posted by birdherder at 12:17 PM on March 28, 2010

Response by poster: I will call the county tomorrow and ask for the status of my case and if there's a warrant out for me.

Looks like I should just bite the bullet and pay for it.

Thanks for the replies!
posted by jstarlee at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2010

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