Can I keep ignoring this thing?
March 30, 2007 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Is there a statute of limitations on a red-light camera ticket fine received in California and not paid?

I recieved a red-light camera citation via mail from the City of Beverly Hills in February 2000 (Wilshire & La Cienega), back when I was a dirt poor college student (my justification for not properly paying this of course.) I ignored the initial documentation due to my frustration and lack of money and shortly thereafter the fine went up to $400+ dollars, and after that was taken up by a collection agency.

Seven years later, I receive notices from this agency in the same orange and white envelope, however they arrive only about twice per year. I've never received a phone call from them to collect the debt and I've gone into the DMV multiple times to renew my license, and pick up personalized plates and such, and they've never prevented me from doing these things or mentioned I have anything on my record (I've also obtained a copy of my driving record.) The documentation from the court/collection agency has included threats regarding the prevention of license renewal, so I'm not sure if this is obviously false. Also, a delinquent payment/collection file has never appeared on my credit report, on all three agencies (I check semi-annually.)

Although the collection agency still contacts me regarding this debt (if it known as such), does the statute of limitations regarding debt apply in this case? Has anyone else obtained red-light camera violations in the City of Beverly Hills or surrounding areas that have not paid them and not incurred severe consequences?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around California (9 answers total)
"..., does the statute of limitations regarding debt apply in this case?"

There is no such thing as a statute of limitations regarding debt. You owe the money.
posted by majick at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2007

Actually, debts do expire (see one of many collection-agency related previous threads here). It can stay on your credit report for a hideously long time, though (may not apply to you, in this case, for some reason).

Read that thread, and search for related threads. There are collection agencies out there who thrive on collecting debt from people who don't actually owe it anymore (because it expired).
posted by rtha at 4:08 PM on March 30, 2007

majick is wrong, usually for CA the statute of limitations is 4 years. Unless Beverly Hills has some sort of law I am not aware of, fines by the government are conveniently not liable under such laws.
posted by geoff. at 4:10 PM on March 30, 2007

You might want to check your credit report.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:18 PM on March 30, 2007

Saucy Intruder, I'm pretty sure he mentioned that he has been checking his credit report, and nothing has appeared.
posted by DMan at 8:57 PM on March 30, 2007

I used to work at the LA Superior Court (obvsiously, B Hills is part of this jurisdiction) in the traffic division--I got laid off about 4 years ago--and this was a frequent question. To be completely honest, I don't know if there is a statute of limitations. Here is what I can tell you:

1. Unpaid tickets are sent to a collections agency. Your credit will be ruined and you'll have a hell of a time trying to improve your credit score.

2. A red light ticket, which I believe was about $271 when I worked there, will continue to accrue late-payment fines. It was VERY common to see people who had an unpaid red light ticket that had hit the $1900 mark.

3. A bench warrant for your arrest will be issued if the ticket is unpaid. Usually, this doesn't mean that a law enforcement official will be dispatched to your home to take you into custody. What will happen, however, is that you will be taken into custody the next time you get a traffic ticket and the officer runs your DMV record while he's writing your citation.

4. What most people do when they are in your situation is to go to the traffic department of your local court and schedule an arraignment with a judge. You can go to court and tell the judge/commissioner why you haven't paid the ticket. More often than not, the judge will put you on a payment plan if you ask and remove the bench warrant from your record.

Just take care of it fast. If you try to apply for a job that requires a background check, your warrant will show up. Rectify the situation as quickly as possible.

Good luck! You are definitely not the first person to let a ticket get out of control!
posted by HotPatatta at 11:06 PM on March 30, 2007

I highly doubt that the statute of limitations is four years. Perhaps the ticket will be purged from the court's system after four years. The DMV's system may even purge old citation records. But that does NOT mean that the collections agency doesn't have the record in their system. And the warrant will still be in the system. I often saw unpaid traffic tickets cum bench warrants that were 7, 8, or 12 years old.

When I worked at the court, the collections agency we used was G.C. Services. When someone came in to speak with collections and want to schedule an arraignment, GC would electronically transfer the record into the court's computer system.

Again, it's been several years since I worked there.

Just go to the court and find out what the status is. It won't hurt to check.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:12 PM on March 30, 2007

In some states, camera tickets are different than those written by a police officer, but apparently California isn't one of them.
posted by wierdo at 4:30 PM on March 31, 2007

I don't know anything about anything, but...

You never signed for this ticket. Neither the cops nor the collection agency can prove that you received the ticket, let alone that you were responsible for the infraction (unless they sent you a picture that clearly shows you driving the car).

IIRC, I once read a book about traffic court that advised people to simply throw such citations away. This might actually be something that will go away (eventually) if you ignore it.
posted by puddleglum at 5:21 PM on March 31, 2007

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