Wednesday, February 15, 2006
7 News Features: Ticket Trouble
If you've ever been caught committing a traffic violation, you know how expensive it can be. Well tonight, drivers all over the country are experiencing ticket trouble even though they never broke the law. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero explains in tonight's special assignment report.
WSVN -- We all know the feeling.
The blinking lights in the back window.
Being forced to pull off to the side of the road.
Digging out your license and registration.
Errol McDowell: "I say it's impossible for this to happen."
Matthew Gray: "It said I was double parked in Manhattan."
Errol McDowel and Matthew Gray both recently received tickets.
But in both cases, the men have legitimate alibis - they were more than a thousand miles away.
Jackelyne Wells: "I was very surprised to see that I had gotten a ticket from Minnesota."
The same thing happened to Jackelyne Wells.
She drives all over South Florida, but she's never even been to Minnesota.
Jackelyne Wells: "I got a ticket for running a stop light."
Back in October, the $142 ticket arrived from Minneapolis.
She figured it was a mistake and easy to fix.
But when the police needed more proof, she asked her boss to get involved. He's a ticket lawyer.
Albert Quirantes: "There's a rash of citations that are being issued to people that weren't even there."
In this case, Jackelyne even has hard evidence.
Seven News obtained this traffic enforcement video taken by Minneapolis authorities.
At the date, time, and place, police say Jackelyne ran a red light, video taken by Minneapolis authorities shows a Ford Focus with a Florida plate running the light.
Jackelyne however drives a Honda Accord.
Her boss believes it's a simple case of an officer writing down the wrong tag number.
Albert Quirantes: "We're waiting for a court day. We submitted some affidavits for them to consider. We may have to hire local council."
Carmel Cafiero: "It's a good thing they're fighting the ticket - ignoring it will only make matters worse. Most states share information about offenders so if you don't fix the problem, you could end up here in court and in front of a judge."
Judge Sam Slom: "You have approximately 6 outstanding tickets."
People who don't take action are placed on the national driver registry.
A database that lists drivers with suspended and revoked licenses.
However, the people listed aren't always the ones who committed the crime.
Sean McLaurin: "People have their identities stolen and someone goes and applies for a license in the state and then starts wracking up violations and fines."
Sean McLaurin runs the database for the federal government.
He says people could be the victim of identity theft and not even know it.
Instead, another person - a stranger - could be behind the wheel breaking the law with your name, birth date, and social security number
Sean McLaurin: "What happens is the person who's identity is stolen has to carry an enormous amount of documentation with them proving they are not the person that was actually revoked or suspended."
But in other circumstances, being sent a bogus ticket could be a case of crooked cops.
Experts maintain police are being forced to meet quotas, and they know out of state residents are less likely to fight a ticket.
Glen Bolofsky: "They're not really caring about justice. They're not about fairness."
Glen Bolofsky with parking tickets.com fights tickets for a living.
He argues New York - where Errol and Matthew received their tickets - is especially bad about targeting and ticketing innocent drivers because they have to generate revenue.
Glen Bolofsky: "These are referred to as ghost tickets."
"The agents who are under pressure to write tickets have found in a computer database where they can access different plates from any state or other country."
For most of us, there's very little we can do to prevent ourselves from getting into ticket trouble.
You can go on the NDR website to see if somebody has possibly stolen your identity, but there's no protection from police desperatley looking to drive up numbers.
Glen Bolofsky: "The reason is they just want the money."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The National Driver Register