Archive for Monday, August 31, 2009

Parking infractions can become ticket to jail

August 31, 2009

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Fines for Lawrence city parking tickets are increasing to $3 Tuesday, and if the ticket isn't paid in 10 days, the fine is increasing from $10 to $15.

If you rack up enough of those tickets and don’t pay the fine, you could end up taking a surprise trip to Douglas County Jail.

Really? Yes.

A Journal-World/6News Open Records request revealed that 71 people were issued arrest warrants by the city in 2008 for unpaid parking tickets, and 10 parking ticket delinquents were booked into the county jail last year. The Journal-World attempted to contact the 10 people booked into the jail for unpaid tickets, but of those contacted, none was willing to comment.

How many does it take?

A few unpaid tickets probably won’t send you to the slammer. But if they start filling up your glove box, then it’s a possibility.

Lawrence City Attorney Tom Porter said that while there isn’t a set threshold for the amount of unpaid parking fines that can prompt the formal process leading to a warrant, the process is typically reserved for those owing more than $500.

Vicki Stanwix, municipal court administrator, said the court sends complaint letters to those with high outstanding fines in an attempt to make payment arrangements.

Downtown business owner Michael Logan was recently sent one of the complaint letters warning him to pay up. And he’s hoping to avoid doing time.

“I’m a habitual offender,” Logan said. “I’ve got to square up with them.”

Stanwix said the formal complaints are usually enough to get those with high fines, such as Logan, to pay up. Of the 308 formal complaints issued by the city last year, only 71 led to warrants. In addition to the 10 warrants that were served, 25 remain active.

The parking fine changes taking effect Tuesday will not affect the process for issuing warrants, said Stanwix.

How the warrants are dealt with by the city varies, said Toni Wheeler, city director of legal services. She said that most often, those with active warrants don’t end up in the jail just for unpaid parking tickets. Typically, such warrants are executed when someone is arrested on another matter, or during a traffic violation.

But there have been cases, she said, where police have arrested someone solely on the warrant for unpaid parking tickets.

Most pay tickets

Stanwix said most Lawrence residents are responsible about paying their parking fines. Of the more than 90,000 parking tickets issued in the city in 2008, 50 percent to 60 percent are paid within 10 days, she said.

But outstanding parking ticket fines still account for a significant amount of money owed to the city. For the two-year period between July 2007 and July 2009, more than $300,000 worth of parking fines remains unpaid, or nearly 40 percent of the amount — $777,000 — the city has collected during the same period.

Logan, who is downtown a lot on business, said it’s easy for him to rack up the parking tickets. He said he tries to keep up with the meters, but isn’t always able to.

“You’ll get tied up,” he said. And while he’s less than timely keeping up with his unpaid tickets and feeding the meters, he knows the city’s parking enforcement officers are more punctual.

“They’re good at it,” Logan said.

Comments

Matthew Herbert 6 years ago

I think the point Tom Porter was trying to make, without snubbing the "importance" of the law directly was that the city simply has bigger fish to fry. I have to agree with Porter on this point. If things in the city are running smoothly, they can focus more effort and dedication on rounding up parking fees. However, when their attention is focused elsewhere, they simply don't have the time to be chasing after petty parking ticket thieves, nor would I want them in such a situation to be focusing effort in that direction. Secondly, I doubt even if the threshold number exists Porter would publicly announce it. Doing so would be counterproductive and would deter the worst offenders from paying up until they hit that magical set number.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Where did the Nick Danger go to law school?

RoeDapple 6 years ago

Shaun, It would be interesting to hear what the most time served for parking violations has been.

Roe

Kat Christian 6 years ago

I have a difficult time believing people are this blatant about not paying a parking ticket. How difficult can it be? Not like its $50 IT'S $3.00 PEOPLE. Not going to break your bank here. Besides the city needs it and you violanted the parking time requirements on your quarter so pay it you deadbeats.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

I suspect most unpaid fines (aside from those of downtown workers) are because the owner didn't have the exact change (now three dollars) and/or they were in a hurry and figured they'd pay it later. Once the ten days are up, and it's gone to $10, they no longer feel any urgency in getting it paid, and eventually they just put it out of their minds.

What would have been useful info in this article is how someone should contact the city to see how many old unpaid parking tickets they have and to arrange payment.

Matt Needham 6 years ago

"What would have been useful info in this article is how someone should contact the city to see how many old unpaid parking tickets they have and to arrange payment."

Just wait for the mail. The city will contact you.

KansasVoter 6 years ago

Do the additional fines on unpaid parking tickets stop at $10 or do they keep going up?

Justanopinion 6 years ago

I kept getting a letter in the mail that said I had unpaid parking ticket on a tag that was not even mine (not to mention it was on a jeep and I drive a Honda) On the first one I called and they said they would clear it up. After the second one threatening a warrant I went down to the court and requested proof it was cleared up. I still care the proof because after the first phone call I dont trust it.

Maybe they should be sure and be on top of who owns what car before warrants are issued. I know it is only $10 I could pay and be done with it but the issue currently is the principal of it.

Justanopinion 6 years ago

oh and by the way henry peach...just call the municiple court...or at least that is who I had to talk to when they were threatening my undue warrant.

vigil05 6 years ago

Off topic... Is there an ordinance that bans individuals from randomly going around putting coins in parking meters just because they feel like it? Playing the "good Samaritan"?

zettapixel 6 years ago

Nothing wrong with those muffin tops... mmmmmm

ozzynbn 6 years ago

Compared to KU parking fines.... Larryville has it easy.

flux 6 years ago

Lay off the girls. They write me tickets all the time and I'm not hatin.

shaunepec 6 years ago

Just another bozo, as was already suggested, I'd give them a call. They said they are willing to work out payment arrangements.

Kansas Voter, We incorrectly listed the 10 day fine as $10. With the other increase in fines, the 10 day fine is now $15. As far as I know, that's as far as they get as far as fines...Although I suppose getting arrested would be its own increase...

ralphralph 6 years ago

Makes me want to head downtown to shop, rather than going to any of the places with free, unlimited time parking .... doesn't it?

purplesage 6 years ago

Parking tickets are a pretty dumb idea - and meters (what do those things cost???) are dumber. Do we want people to shop in town instead of out at Wal-Mart / Target where there's free parking for all? Then, let people park, don't give them a fine if they stay too long in the store, pull out the meters and find something else for the folks engaged in the whole charade to do for work.

But let's get on to really dumb, totally stupid and overly-reactionary. Jail for a parking ticket, or more accuartely a collection of them, is a huge waste of resources and an example of the government going over-board.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 12 months ago

"as was already suggested, I'd give them a call. They said they are willing to work out payment arrangements."

Why not include some basic info in the article to facilitate this?-- as in what number to call, and to whom one should speak.

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