How do I find out if the ODOT wants their pound of flesh?
February 18, 2013 1:01 PM   Subscribe

I have a car registered in IL, but I've lived in OH for 2 years now. How do I find out if there are any outstanding tickets on my plates?

About 2 years ago I left Illinois and moved to Ohio. Through an incredible act of laziness, and because my address will definitely change again sometime in the next year, I haven't bothered to register my car in Ohio. I will get around to it once I have a permanent residence.

It recently occurred to me that if I have received any tickets from red light cameras or similar automated traffic enforcement, they have no way of getting those tickets to me so I can pay them. Presumably Ohio would send the tickets to the address on file with the Illinois Department of Transportation, which is my old address back in Illinois. But I'm pretty sure my mail forwarding from that address has expired.

It's not a huge deal, but this is made me slightly paranoid that I may have outstanding on paid tickets which according to other AskMes can become real problems if they are outstanding for too long, so I would like to check whether there are any tickets out for my license plates. How would I find that out? Is there someone I can call or a website I can use for you either the Ohio or Illinois Department of Transportation? I'd rather not just cold-call ODOT or IDOT unless that's clearly the right way (and the only way) to do this - you know how those kinds of calls can result in hours lost and no answer.
posted by Tehhund to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Call an attorney specializing in traffic tickets and see if they can locate any warrants for you in Ohio.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:24 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is a site where you can check this on-line. It's $39.95, but that might be worth it for peace of mind.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not familiar with Ohio, but every state I've lived in has required registering cars in-state after 30-90 days of residency, and has required annual or bi-annual inspections. Are you sure you're not already breaking the law by driving an out-of-state car for two years?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:49 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

qxntpqbbbqxl, thanks for your concern, but I'd rather not discuss that particular aspect. I just want to know how check for tickets, not delve into the broader car registration situation. Besides, the answer is fairly obvious.
posted by Tehhund at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2013

I'm 99.99% sure that automated cameras (which, here in the Cleveland area, can include speed cameras as well as red light cameras) are a function of city government, not the state. In Cleveland proper violations are paid to the Cleveland Clerk of Courts. FAQ here. In other cities/townships, like Parma or East Cleveland or whatever, I'd guess they'd be under that city's Public Safety Dept.

No guarantees how accurate it is, but I did find photo (Ohio map) that supposedly marks the locations of traffic cams. You could look at it to see if it's at all likely you've even driven past any traffic cams.

But considering that you might have to call around to more than one jurisdiction, I'd say Burhanistan's idea is best. Do your checking through a lawyer.

Because they WILL issue a warrant if you haven't paid the $100 to $200 fine from a traffic cam, and that warrant WILL go out to all police departments in at least the NE Ohio area, if not the whole state, or maybe even over to Illinois.

Let me tell you about the time when I had to drive from my apartment on the west side all the way out to Mentor to take a friend home after she got pulled over for missing a tail light, and got her car impounded IMMEDIATELY, right there on the side of the highway, when a plate check discovered that she'd gotten a warrant issued for ignoring a ticket she got in Parma - a parking violation, by the way, not a moving violation. Oh yeah, and the two days I had to take a half-day at work to drive her from Mentor to traffic court in Parma just so she could get her car back.

You may not think it's a huge deal now. . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 9:51 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

To clarify a little bit - it's not ODOT that wants a pound of flesh.

ODOT (and as far as I can tell IDOT) are concerned with designing, building and maintaining roads, not with traffic violations.

Vehicle registration and drivers' licenses are issued by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. In Illinois it's the Department of Motor Vehicles, part of the Secretary of State's office. So these are the departments you should be directing inquiries to.

The Ohio BMV can give you a copy of your driving record - see here - including online access, but I don't know if this would work if you have an Illinois driver's license. Illinois has a similar program - see here - but it seems to require showing up in person (or having a legally designated family member show up in person) and paying a $12 fee.

Tickets (including traffic cam tickets) are issued by a department of local government (i.e. the Cleveland police), and warrants for non-payment of tickets are issued by local court systems. While I think arrest and traffic warrants are technically public records, I'm having a hard time finding any way for an average citizen to search statewide for warrants in their name in all jurisdictions.

Then there's the additional complication that your vehicle is registered in another state, and maybe your DL, too.

So that's why I think Burhanistan's point of getting some help from a traffic lawyer is a good one - they've almost certainly got access (or easier access) to important info.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:24 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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