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9/17/2007
North Carolina: County Court Imposes Limit on Parking Tickets
A Guilford County, North Carolina court imposes a one-year limitation on parking ticket collections.

Guilford County Courthouse
In most states, parking tickets are forever. Cities can collect on claimed debts that stretch back for decades, but a case pending before the North Carolina Court of Appeals could change that. Already, Guilford County District Court Judge Margaret Sharpe ruled that the city of Greensboro has just 15 months from the time a parking ticket is issued to file a suit to collect the money. If the city does not meet the deadline, the debt is considered canceled.

The case has its roots in bitter dispute between Greensboro and local attorney Kevin Morse. In 2002, the city said he owed $2000 in parking tickets, which Morse eventually settled with a payment of $1600. The incident left Morse feeling the city had acted like "bullies."

"It was the manner in which they come after you," Morse told the Greensboro News & Record newspaper. "It's very upsetting.... I just wanted some small concession from them to have a moral victory of some kind."

The second time the city came after Morse, he was prepared. Greensboro claimed that he owed $2300 in unpaid parking tickets and late fees accumulated since 2004. Morse fought back with a the successful legal argument that the city's suit was not timely. Because the city's own ordinance failed to set a time frame in which the debt could be collected, the limitation defaulted to one year -- an amount of time that had already passed.

The decision, if upheld on appeal, could cost the city $2 million in revenue and millions more for cities throughout the state. The North Carolina League of Municipalities is lobbying for a change in state law to head off any loss in ticket revenue.

Source: He fought the law and he might win (Greensboro News and Record (NC), 9/16/2007)

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