Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Arrested and Forced to Pay Up Again

Have you ever heard of someone being arrested for a fine that they had already paid? Believe it or not that is what happened to me recently!

I was driving a little too fast on the Interstate and was pulled over for speeding. We sat there for quite some time as the police officer was doing his thing in his car. Finally he asked me to step out of the vehicle and informed me that I was under arrest. I was really surprised and stunned. What was I under arrest for? What was the charge? I had done nothing (other than speeding a bit) and had not been into any trouble.

I was told by the police officer that the warrant was for a traffic ticket that was unpaid from several years ago. I had only gotten one ticket - which was for improper passing and carried a $61.00 fine - during that time period and that ticket had been paid years ago! I had even attended traffic school because of it.

I spent about 5 hours in jail while my wife posted my bond and then two weeks later I had to appear in court to answer to the warrant. I was told basically that if I could find the receipt it would be fine but if I could not... So I searched for the receipt but never did find it. No matter what I said to the judge it was the same... "We have no record of your payment therefore no payment was made." In the end I had no choice but to pay the fine a second time.

Now here is the part that really infuriated me. When the police officer took me to jail he left my wife and two babies sitting out in the 'middle of nowhere' beside the Interstate! She has no license, the vehicle has no air conditioning and they all sat out in the blazing sun on the shoulder for hours. And to make matters even worse the cop who pulled me over claiming that I was doing 16 miles above the speed limit was traveling at 73 mph in a 55 mph zone to get me to jail! How ironic that he was going 1 mile more above the limit than I was supposedly traveling!

While I was in court that day there was a woman who had been ticketed for driving with an expired registration. She said that she had insisted to the cop that her registration had not in fact expired but he wrote the ticket anyway and she was ordered to appear in court. She showed the judge her registration and her case was dismissed. How could such an error be made by that police officer? She said that her sticker was fine (on her plate) and even her registration receipt yet when the cop "ran" her info he came up with expired registration!

When I talk about what happened to some of my friends and family I often hear something like "Wow, I know several people who claimed something similar happened to them!"

Lessons learned
You cannot depend upon the "system" to treat you fairly
ALWAYS keep receipts like this or "the man" might get you again

I wrote a follow up to this at Many Cops Routinely Break the Law

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