Fighting old parking tickets?
May 30, 2006 7:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to see if fighting some old parking tickets is worth my effort.

Not looking for legal advice; just any similar experiences or insights. Here are the facts:

About a year ago, I received a letter from a legal firm representing the city of Chicago stating I owed $1200 on some old tickets. Upon looking at the printout, there were some legit tickets but an overwhelming number of tickets attributed to someone who must have found my old plates after I disposed of them. The area of those tickets is an area of Chicago I have never lived in nor frequented, period. I sent a letter stating such and didn't hear back from them until about six months later. They essentially said tough beans. I sent another letter requesting to know what I'd need to prove my case. I never heard from them. I suspected something a little strange about this legal firm in terms of them representing the City of Chicago. It didn't seem official as anyone could go online and get ticket information. Another thing to compound the problem is that I have no proof that the plates were stolen. I don't even remember disposing of them properly or if I just tossed them. I sold the car in 1997 and a lot of the tickets were issued to another vehicle with my plates.

This weekend, I got a letter and what appears to be a court order to pay up. There was no letter attached, just the court order AND an official printout from the City of Chicago with a rundown of all the tickets. The court order says I owe $900 and the total in tickets is $1800.

What I'd like to know is, is this worth fighting? At this stage it seems the city isn't interested. They want their cash and rightfully so. I'm perfectly willing to pay for all of the legit tickets in one fell swoop but how can I effectively fight the other ones? Can I fight them? If so, what would I need? I am about to consult a lawyer but I suspect even they'd say I was screwed.

Feedback and similar experiences welcomed.
posted by KevinSkomsvold to Law & Government (10 answers total)
I'm simply stating the obvious here, but admitting that some of those tickets are yours is an admission of guilt (avoiding the payment of tickets, period).

The only way you can prove that the other tickets aren't yours is to show evidence that you switched your plates (including insurance and registration receipts) but in Pennsylvania, it's mandatory to send your old plates into the DMV (to avoid this type of fraud).

Do you have court-worthy proof that you switched your tags at a certain date and can't be held responsible for the fradulent tickets?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:14 AM on May 30, 2006

Thanks SeizeTheDay. Unfortunately, I do not have proof. After I sold the car, I disposed of them (to the best of my recollection) and didn't get another car until 2003. The only thing I could conceivably show to prove my innocence on the incorrect tickets is that I sold the vehicle in 1997. At least I think.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:21 AM on May 30, 2006

Wouldn't the tickets in the "stolen plates" timeline include the make and model of the car they were placed on? Seems to me you could have a case showing that the plates were registered to car X, and you will pay the tickets for car X, but no records exist showing that you ever owned car Y.

Of course they then might accuse you of using the plates fraudulently, so you might want to dig into your local motor vehicle codes or consult a local lawyer for a better answer.

In some sense I'd say just pay up to get rid of the issue if you can afford it, but I'd hate to offcially admit to a minor infraction and then later have it come back to haunt me somehow.
posted by mikepop at 7:31 AM on May 30, 2006

It seems to me that a bill of sale or other documentation as to when you sold the car could get you out of tickets past that date. IANAL, though.
posted by TedW at 7:32 AM on May 30, 2006

Yes, no matter what you did with the actual plates you should be able to go down to your department of motor vehicles and find out if you de-registered your car properly when you sold it. If not, you should at least be able to get documentation that you sold the car. That might help. You might also contact your insurance company for copies of whatever paperwork you sent them when you stopped coverage on the car.
posted by mikepop at 7:39 AM on May 30, 2006

Thanks Mike and Ted. That's the direction I'm going in.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:57 AM on May 30, 2006

Couple of questions:

Do you still live in Chicago, or have a vehicle registered there?

If not, what would the ramifications be if you just ignored them?

I have a few unpaid parking tickets from cities I've only visited, such as NYC and LA, and a city I once lived in but likely won't again, Columbus, OH, and they stopped sending threatening letters years ago. Nothing ever showed up on my credit report, which would really be the only thing I'd have worried about.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:12 AM on May 30, 2006

Do you still live in Chicago, or have a vehicle registered there?

Yes and yes. My wife uses my car to drive to her translating job on the south side and got nabbed by a red-light camera (that was my one and only violation since having a new car). They must have gotten my new address that way and the rest is history.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2006

Kevin -- If I weren't such a n00b, I'd have looked at your profile, and seen that yes, indeed, you were still living in Chicago. Sorry!

In other news, my city (ABQ) is getting these red-light cameras too. Takes all the fun out of the bad drivers vs. police game.

Good luck!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:15 AM on May 30, 2006

Red-light cameras suck. In NYC, if you try to stop for a late yellow, the asshole on his cell phone behind you will slam into you. I estimate 90%+ drivers here run the reds. The West Side Highway is the worst. In this instance, is actually more dangerous to not run the red.

Re: NYC tickets. I once got two tickets in the same day for parking too close to a fire hydrant. They eventually sent a collection notice to my mom's address (where the car was registered) in Michigan. That was an expensive ticket. I would guess the city follows up on the majority of the tickets written.
posted by camworld at 10:55 AM on May 30, 2006

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