Monday, February 6, 2012
Help Me Howard: License Plate
If you get a SunPass violation, you either pay it or fight it. But how would you feel if you were getting violations totalling over $1,000 a day from a car that's not yours and a tag that was stolen from you? It can happen, and one solution: Bring in those Help Me Howard guys with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When we first met Keith, he was driving with an expired tag and a suspended license.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "I have children I have to support. I have to get back and forth to work. I have no other transportation."
Keith did nothing wrong. He is in a bad spot because of a bad guy.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "It's very stressful, very stressful. I'm always worried I'm going to get pulled over, knowing that if I do get pulled over, they can take me to jail if they wanted to."
Two years ago, Keith sold his car. He remembers taking the tag off the 1997 Ford Thunderbird before the buyer drove away. But a year ago, the trouble started.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "Yeah, pretty much, at least four days a week I'm getting tickets in the mail for toll violations, $45, $25. One day was $1,486 worth of toll violations in one day."
Keith's old tag is not on the Thunderbird he sold. It's on a Ford Taurus going through the same toll plazas several times a day.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "I have called highway patrol to see if they can stake out the toll that the individual keeps running. They told me that they don't do that."
Keith did file a police report to document the theft of the old tag.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "They said that they made note of that, that we would stop receiving tickets in the mail."
But the SunPass violations kept coming in.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "Between $6,000 and $8,000 worth of toll violations."
Then, his license was suspended and he was not allowed to renew the tag on his car. But Keith says he has to keep driving to get to work and get his kids to school.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "I get worried about getting pulled over everyday. I worry about getting stopped, especially when I have my children in the car with me."
Keith has been stopped by several sharp-eyed police officers who notice his expired tag. When he shows them the proof that he is a crime victim, they show they have a heart.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "And they were very nice and understanding about it once I showed them the paperwork that I have gotten that my tag has been stolen, so I've been very lucky so far."
The driver goes through the same toll on the Turnpike about the same time every day in this Taurus with the tag number C970LL. Keith got so desperate, he stood at the tolls in the morning to try to catch the crook.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "And stood between the toll lanes with a little pair of binoculars, watching all the cars as they drove by, trying to look for that plate number."
He didn't catch the driver, couldn't get the thousands in toll violations wiped out, couldn't get his license re-instated, couldn't get a break.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "And I'm having a difficult time raising money for an attorney, so I turned to you guys."
Well Howard, he sold his car, the tag disappeared, but it's still troubing him. So is Keith responsible for the tolls the person who has his old tag is collecting?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Even if the tag was stolen, Keith could be responsible for the SunPass violations, because he didn't report the theft until after violations started coming in. He would not be responsible for violations that occurred after he reported it to police. So the court could believe him and wipe out all the violations or force Keith to pay the ones that came in before he realized the tag was missing."
Since we have been around awhile, we knew what to do.
We contacted officials with SunPass. They opened an investigation. Two days later, they agreed that Keith was the victim in this mess.
They then asked the courts to dismiss the citiations as well as the penalities and late fees assessed against Keith.
His license was restored and his record cleared, as if none of this had ever happened.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Keith was lucky. Give SunPass credit for quickly getting this cleared up for us. But you don't need us. If you get any citation, if it's deserved or a mistake, make sure you go to court and explain the situation. That will avoid all the problems that Keith faced."
For over a year, Keith couldn't do what he loves the most: drive his kids to the park, the beach.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "I want to say thank you very much to you guys, thank you to Help Me Howard."
Now with a new tag and his license re-instated, he can put his kids back in the car and go have fun.
Keith David, Tags and Tolls: "I'm able to take joy rides with the kids again. We're going to the beach, we're going fishing tonight."
Patrick Fraser: "If you have an old tag laying around, bring it to the tag agency and get it off the records or destroy it, because with the creation of toll plazas, a crook can use a tag to scoot through for free. Well, free for them. It will cost you, if not money, headaches."
Tagged with a problem that's troubling you? Wanna license someone to step in? Contact us. We'll renew the search for a solution, because we are driven to help you.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com