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.
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.