On Tuesday, I have to take off work to go to court. I have to go to court because I have a parking ticket from six years ago that has amassed an $1100 fine. I didn't know about this parking ticket until last August, when I began fighting it; the court date is a culmination of the fight.
See, a long time ago, I used to be really irresponsible about parking tickets. In Michigan, you could get a parking ticket, or a few, and just pay them off when you get your next parking sticker or your next registration. If there were fines, they were minimal and unnoticeable.
I thought the same when I moved to Baltimore. I got a few parking tickets, but just figured I'd pay them when I got my registration renewed. This turned into a huge no-no for me, as my car was eventually booted and towed with an embarassingly huge fine. This was right around the 2003-2004 school year, when there was a huge budget crunch, so it was especially troubling. These were dark days for me.
Since that time, I've been smart about tickets. Not only do I hardly ever get them - maybe once a year - but I pay them right away when I do.
However, in January of 2002, I apparently received a parking ticket on my old car. Now, this car broke down in January of 2002, and I donated it to the Humane Society and purchased my new car that same month. I apparently got this ticket in the transition between cars, like perhaps in the two-week time frame when the car was undriveable and I was awaiting the Humane Society picking it up.
But I didn't just ignore the ticket. According to Baltimore City's records, I wrote a check in February of 2002 that attempted to pay off the ticket. The check cleared and all, but the fine had already been added to the ticket, so it was officially not all the way paid, and thus has amassed a $16/month fine since then.
Because the car was registered back in Michigan, I never got any of the notices about the ticket - if they were indeed sent. It wasn't until this past summer, in August, when Baltimore City hired some law firm to find deliquent tickets, that I received a notice forwarded from my six-year old Michigan address. By then, it had amassed the huge, huge fine and I sure as hell wasn't paying it without a fight.
So I'm going to go in and tell the judge the truth: that I didn't know about the ticket until August of 2007, that I attempted to pay it in February of 2002, and that I received no noticed in between those dates. I will try to work in that I've paid thousands in parking ticket fines with the new car - I fulfill my obligation when it is deserved - but that this is not deserved because the city did not do its part in contacting me. And that I'm a teacher in the city and just can't afford this, not that it'll help.
I don't think I'll be paying the fine either way. I'm not really sure of the legal ramifications, but this seems to be something that can just hurt my credit a little bit, and if I dispute it, maybe it won't matter. My credit isn't so bad these days, but this is certainly on it, so maybe I'll work on getting it expunged rather than paying something that costs more than one paycheck to pay.
It's all so stupid. I hate the way this city deals with parking and parking fines. It makes me want to move, in fact.
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