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You are here: Home News "Beyond Bergen" - News From Across New Jersey Old parking tickets now only a memory | Quigley

News From "Beyond Bergen"

Old parking tickets now only a memory | Quigley

I was appalled, and so were many of my Democratic colleagues.

 

Walk down Memory Lane with me, back to 1997, when New Jersey's Administrative Office of the Courts promised to do something Chief Justice Stuart Rabner did this month.

I was a second-term assemblywoman ready to head out to a community meeting in Kearny when I got a call from my aide saying I'd have to drive because his license was suspended. I picked him up and as we headed along Route 7, he said that when he'd gone to renew his license, the DMV (now the MVC) told him his license had been suspended because of three outstanding parking tickets from 1989.

At first, I thought that was funny, so I mentioned it during my talk. Afterward, three people told me they'd recently been suspended, too, for old parking tickets. That seemed more than a coincidence.

Next day at work I asked around. Seems everybody knew somebody with the same problem. All cases were recent and in no instance did anyone have a decade-old receipt, cashed check or other proof of payment.

Later that week, I talked to my Trenton colleagues and learned they'd almost all received similar constituent complaints.

In some cases, drivers had never even been in towns where parking tickets were received. In other cases, it wasn't their license number or vehicle.

Obviously, something bad was going on.

After a little digging, I learned several large municipalities had engaged the same consulting firm to help them find new ways of raising money. The consultant recommended they check old files for unprocessed parking tickets. And they found plenty. Boxes. Cartons.

Jersey City, Newark, Hackensack, Camden and Atlantic City officials thought they'd found gold mines.

They immediately notified DMV to suspend licenses of all identified motorists, going back 20 years. DMV officials were thrilled, too.

Suspended drivers were required to pay not only original fines, but also additional charges for non-payment along with interest, and then another $50 to have their licenses restored. DMV said close to one million people were affected.

I was appalled, and so were many of my Democratic colleagues. I quickly introduced legislation requiring all municipalities to process parking tickets within three years or lose the opportunity to do so. The bill also required DMV to send certified letters to motorists prior to suspension.

Reluctantly, DMV officials backed the overall concept but balked at the cost of certified mail so there was only weak support from them. When news of the new bill went out, my office was swamped with letters and calls from outraged motorists, and I was invited all over the state to give talks and interviews about the bill.

But it went nowhere.

As a relatively inexperienced legislator when Democrats were in the minority in Trenton, I couldn't generate enough interest from legislative leadership. Most Republicans were from suburban or rural areas and hadn't been affected by the suspension blitz.

There'd been a lot of interest in the media, however, and the Administrative Office of the Courts in Trenton took notice. That office, under the direction of the chief justice, manages all courts in the state.

After some negotiations, they agreed to wipe out all parking tickets older than three years. They could do that with a single click on their computer -- but only if I would withdraw the bill and leave the matter to them.

I did. And they did. But it seems that over the next 22 years, unprocessed tickets and other small issues began piling up again. A week ago, Justice Rabner ordered all old minor offenses wiped off the books. You may never know you were in that pile, but be grateful anyway.

A former assemblywoman from Jersey City, Joan Quigley is the president and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corp.

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Read full article at NJ.com


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