How Does A $25 Traffic Ticket Become A $911 Ticket?

When you receive a parking or traffic ticket, don’t forget about it. In this time of widespread budget crisis at all levels of government, they’re apparently not messing around. Brent received a ticket from a California Highway Patrol officer for not changing the address on his driver’s license. He made the change, but forgot to send the ticket back. In just a few months, his $25 fine somehow turned into a $911 fine. Wait, what?

On Friday I received a letter from a collection agency representing the Superior Court of LA saying I owed them $911.00 for a citation. Needless to say, I was shocked and wondered what I could have done that would warrant and $900 bail/fine. My first thought was that someone had stolen my ID and got some crazy DUI or speeding ticket, or it was from a red camera ticket that was from a car I had sold a month earlier and the new owner had gone on a crazy red light camera night of debauchery. As investigated, this $911 fine was from a fix-it ticket I had received in December 28, [2010]. A CHP officer had given me a fix-it ticket because I had recently moved, and the address on my CDL did not match the address on my car registration. I had until 2/28/11 to change my address, which I did on 1/21/11, have a police officer sign that I had changed my address (at the time the guy that gave me the ticket said it should be a CHP officer, but later learned it doesn’t matter) and mail the ticket back in with $25.

Well, I forgot all about the ticket and finding a CHP guy to sign it, and because, a month later, I had failed to send the citation back, my $25 fine had now grown to $911..almost a thousand dollars. A month late and it is 36 times more expensive. Can you imagine if all fines were computed in this fashion? Your cable bill is a month late and instead of it being $95 it is now $3,420? Is this how the state is planning on climbing out of it’s self made budget deficit? By charging non-proportionate and astronomical fees if you are late on fix-it tickets? I could understand if I was speeding down the 101 at 200 mph or I had committed some other egregious offense, like flicked off Meg Whitman, but does the fine match the infraction?

I had a local law enforcement friend look into the ticket for me because he could not believe that the $911 was solely for the change of address. He said they must have tacked on a misdemeanor fail to appear, which would be a whole other issue, but they had not. The $911 bail was only because I had forgotten to change my address on my CDL and a cop told me to do so, which I did, but I forgot to send the ticket back. This cop friend of mine said, “You know, 36 years ago when I was in the academy they said, when in doubt always ask yourself is this reasonable? This clearly is not reasonable.”

I had no choice but to pay the amount today or else my cop friend said they may put a warrant out for my arrest..a warrant out for my arrest because I had moved and forgot to notify the DMV I had moved five miles. Craziest thing I have ever heard..and I went to Berkeley, so I have heard some crazy cuss.

Thanks for any help/awareness you can spread.

Has anyone else run into a situation like this for any crime short of flipping off Meg Whitman?