Monday, June 30, 2008
Help Me Howard: Ticket Collections
Getting a traffic ticket is tough. Getting letters in the mail from a collection agency three years after you thought the ticket was taken care of, that's a whole lot worse. One man's ticket trouble is tonight's Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Daniel Palacino likes to jog. Although, he will tell you, in his last marathon he wasn't great.
Daniel Palacino: "I had grandpa passing me, it was embarrassing, life altering."
Running makes Daniel feel good, but something he ran a few years ago is causing him pain today.
Daniel Palacino: "I did a rolling stop sign. It was stupid of me."
It was in 2005 that Daniel rolled through the stop sign and, since he was a limo driver, he knew he had to take care of it quickly.
Daniel Palacino: "I went to court for it. No points, withheld adjudication and that was the end of it."
Daniel Palacino: "Three years later, I start getting letters from this company telling me I owe a ticket from 2005 from this infraction, from running the stop sign."
Daniel assumed it was a mistake since he remembered he had paid the fine, and he knew, in Florida, if you don't pay, you will pay.
Daniel Palacino: "They will suspend your license, and take away your tag like this."
Daniel checked, his driver's license is fine, but the letters kept coming from the Texas collection agency, telling him they had been hired by the Miami-Dade Clerk's Office.
Daniel Palacino: "They constantly call me. They called me yesterday for the same ticket."
Daniel tried to tell them he had already paid the ticket, but they didn't buy that.
Daniel Palacino: "And they started verbally threatening me, 'OK, we are going to just get your license suspended.' I was like, 'What do you mean you are going to get my license suspended? You are in another state, you are in Austin, Texas and I'm in Miami, Florida. How is this happening?'"
Daniel says not only did the collection agency threaten him over the phone, they even put it in writing.
Daniel Palacino: "You've been advised of the county's intentions and what serious consequences you will experience if you do not resolve your case."
Daniel thought he had paid the ticket, but getting a call from a collection agency in Texas made him nervous and left him wondering, can they suspend his license over a traffic ticket he thought he had paid? So he put in a call to Help me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, the county can hire a collection agency to go after unpaid fines. However, it's illegal for the collection agency to threaten to suspend your driver's license. They can't do it, the county can't do it, only the state can do it. As for how Daniel paid and didn't get credit for paying, that requires some digging."
A spokesman with the Miami-Dade Clerk's office told us the Municipal Services Bureau is one of three legitimate collection agencies the county contracts with, that MSB does not keep a percentage of the ticket itself but can add on a collection fee. When we talked to the collection agency, they denied threatening Daniel, adding that they only assist the courts. When we dug deeper, we found Daniel may have gone to driving school but not for this ticket, he did pay $83, but the ticket was actually for $143. Meaning Daniel still owes the county $60.
Now he will also owe the collection agency almost $24 for their trouble.
Daniel Palacino: "That record is clean because I check it."
And to keep his record clean, Daniel will pay the amount he has owed for three years because, in a new business he is starting, a clean license is a necessity.
Daniel Palacino: "I also have a chauffeur service. What I do is I put chauffeurs at people's houses that don't want the problems are worries about getting a DUI. We drive their cars, their gas, take them wherever they want."
Patrick Fraser: "If the Clerk's Office shows Daniel never took care of the ticket in full, then why wasn't his license suspended three years ago? No one can be certain. As for the collection agency, not only are they irritating if you don't pay, they can report you to the credit bureaus. They deny doing that to Daniel but someone did. Howard says Daniel should write a letter to the credit bureaus explaining the situation and letting them know it has been taken care of.
Collecting troubles the way a traffic cop corrals speeders? Want to drive them all away? Contact us. We don't have a license to help, but we will do our best to suspend your problems.
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