7/25/2005New Hampshire Woman Arrested Over $10 Parking Ticket
It took nine months for a New Hampshire woman to be cleared of criminal charges after she received a $10 parking ticket.
Dawn Smith, a thirty-year-old resident of Kittery, New Hampshire, recently ended a nine month ordeal that began with a $10 parking ticket she received on October 23, 2004. Well before the thirty-day time limit expired, Smith dropped a check in the mail to pay the citation and assumed the matter was concluded. It wasn't.
The city claims it never received the check and sent her a bill for $15, the original amount of the fine plus a fifty percent late fee. Since Smith had a copy of the canceled check, she knew the city was wrong and wanted to fight back. So she told the city she wanted to appeal and she received a court date for a hearing. After realizing her time was more valuable than the $15 she might win, Smith wrote and faxed the city parking office asking them to cancel the court date. She paid the fine (again) with the late fee, assuming everything was settled. It wasn't.
At 1:37 PM on June 29, a police officer pulled her over for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. The officer proceeded to arrest, handcuff, book and fingerprint her over charges stemming from the parking ticket.
Judge Benjamin C. Brighton had issued a warrant for her arrest, explaining in a letter to the Portsmouth Herald that one should not make a distinction between serious, violent crimes and parking tickets. "If you have a court date, and you fail to show, there is a bench warrant issued," Judge Brighton wrote. "It does not matter if it is for j-walking, or rape; a parking ticket or murder in the first. By not showing for her court date, Ms. Smith slapped our court system in the face. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law."
On July 13, Smith had her day in court. Judge Michael Sullivan found her not guilty on all charges.