12/2/2005Florida Counties Overcharge for Traffic Tickets
Hillsborough and Monroe County, Florida have illegally imposed retroactive fine increases on motorists.
The courts in Hillsborough County and Monroe County, Florida have been collecting double the legally acceptable fine amount for red light violations. The unlawful charges may amount to as much as $7 million in Hillsborough alone.
The problem was first noticed after the state raised the red light fine $60 to $125, effective October 1. The clerk in these counties interpreted this to mean that the fine change was retroactive and began demanding the higher fine from individuals whose violations happened under the old law.
In Hillsborough, the retroactive increase policy for other types of traffic tickets goes back as far as August 2004. The Tampa Tribune estimates that of the $15 million the county has reported in unpaid fines, about $7 million is the result of overcharging. The county will issue refunds to those who paid after October 1.
Shannon Gobel, for example, received a $60 ticket on August 9. She tried to pay it online, but the court had no record of the ticket in the computer system. She called several times to resolve the matter, but each time the clerk said there was no ticket. After October, the fine jumped to $125 and a late fee was added to bring the total to $191. A five-month backlog increased costs for thousands of motorists.
"Where was my ticket for nine weeks?" Gobel told the Tribune. "Because of their mistakes, I had to pay more. They could care less."
"You can't charge more than what the law allowed at the time the citation was issued," said Judy Kennedy, an assistant director for Pasco County's clerk of the court. You have to charge the rate in effect on the day the ticket was issued, said Pinellas County Clerk of the Court Ken Burke. "It's just basic common sense."Source: Ticketed Drivers Seeing Red (Tampa Tribune, 12/2/2005)
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