Update on my wife's Kafka-esque traffic ticket dilemma
I've received lots of email about my wife's catch-22 traffic ticket problem (in short, she is trying to pay the ticket but the court won't accept payment because the ticket hasn't been entered into the computer system yet. And the reason it hasn't been entered into the computer system, apparently, is because the officer who issued the ticket didn't enter the date in the date field).

I'd like to thank everyone who wrote to me about this. We got rid of the messages boards on Boing Boing over a year ago, and I'd kind of forgotten how nice and generous 99.9% of Boing Boing's readers are! It's inspiring and uplifting to get email from so many exellent people.

I thought you'd be interested to read the advice I've received about this so far. There are lots of ideas, but the four most common ones are:

1. Get a lawyer.

2. Get a cashier's check and pay the fine with it (sending it by certified mail).

3. Contact the officer who issued the ticket and ask him what the status of the ticket is.

4. Contest the ticket, because it is invalid with a date on it.

Our next steps: we are going to call a lawyer friend who has dealt with ticket problems before, and we are calling AAA, which apparently has a department that helps people deal with traffic tickets. Appearance

Here's one thing that might help (click on thumbnail for enlargement). When my wife went down to the court to attempt pay the ticket yesterday, the clerk gave her this "Proof of Appearance" statement. Hopefully, it'll convince the judge that we tried to take care of the matter.

Below, you can read the email I've received so far:

The last time I was issued a traffic ticket, it took at least a month for it to show up in the la court's database. And in your case you also have delay from the holidays to contend with ... So it's possible that this is just a "normal" delay. I would recommend an exponential backoff algorithm (double the wait between each test :) and maybe keep a record of the days that you checked on it.

On a somewhat related note, I encountered an interesting problem with the dmv database -- about 7 years ago I went to the dmv to change my mailing address, and the employee who helped me was for some reason unable to make the change in the normal way. I had just registered the car within the past few weeks, and he mumbled something about how "new registrations sometimes have such and such a problem". But he persevered and found a solution: he deleted the record and created a new one. I walked out with my new paperwork and drove off. A few months later, while minding my own business, I got pulled over. Apparently, the cops had run my plates and nothing came back. Together, we managed to sort out that the dmv guy had changed my plate number, but that I still had the original plates, which now apparently had no record assoicated with them.

Fortunately, after the cops verified the real registration they just sent me on my way with the mere suggestion that I take the plates back to the dmv -- not even a fixup ticket.

However, I did not rush over to correct this, as I soon found a beneficial side effect of having nonexistent plates: parking ticket immunity. Apparently parking tickets issued with that plate just go into a black hole somewhere. Perhaps they assume that the plate number was misentered. Thus I would only pay tickets where the vin was entered -- which is pretty much never because the metermaids are lazy and always just write in that the vin is "obscured".

Unfortunately I don't think my dmv experience is too applicable to your situation, except as evidence that these government employees often don't really understand the system -- they take more of a voodoo approach. But on the plus side, if your ticket does finally show up backdated and warrants are issued, I think the court will be amenable to the idea that there was a database error -- because unlike in kafka i don't think anyone really believes these systems are infallible.

Contest the ticket. You'd be amazed at the things judges throw cases out over; I once saw a ticket get tossed out because the officer had entered the wrong ticket number into the record. Failure to include complete information is apparently good enough reason to dismiss a case, no doubt depending on the judge.

If nothing else, if you bring it before a judge, the court will be forced to resolve the matter. If you bring the case in those terms ("We're not trying to get out of the fine, we just don't want to be additionally penalized because of a bureaucratic error"), the judge is more likely to be sympathetic.

Go to a traffic lawyer. More than likely they'll get it dismissed because there are SO many errors, it's not legal.

Don't know what it costs in CA., but here in TX it's around 50 bucks. BONUS: you won't have to go to traffic school.

I'm thinking perhaps head into the ticket office with two witnesses and a pre-typed statement of the situation (preferably on 8.5" by 14" so it looks like a legal contract). Have theclerk explain the problem again, then turn to the two witnesses and explain (in earshot of the clerk)that they will be signing a statement indicating the situation and if they disagree with any of the statements in the pre-typed document that they are to note it in the space provided. Then once they've signed (be sure to include the date and printed name of the signator), turn to the clerk and ask for their full name and write it down on the paper, perhaps even ask them for a signature (but stress it isn't necessary for this type of document).

This will optimally scare the clerk into either being more pliable or directing you to a manager whom will be in damage control mode as it implies legal proceedings. Worst case scenario if you get no action, stroll down to your nearest notary public and drop the $20 to get the document notarized so that you can use it to better deal with any ramifications when or if they arrise. Also I'd look on the ticket and see if the officer that gave it to your wife left any badge information or other contact information of may be able to meet with him or her and clear the whole thing up from that end. I'd also gauge the clerk at the desk prior to the above tactic maybe it might be a different one that is more helpful.

I have to say that I'm no lawyer but I believe these tactics would work. Great site (and magazine back in the day)by the way!

If you want to get it all over with, I suggest this approach; Get a couple of your friends together and head for your local camera store. Explain to them that you are from "The tech division of the popular monthly mag "Boingboing". Convince them to lend you some halfway decent video gear by lying about how you'll give them great publicity for lending out the gear, and let them keep a deposit for the stuff. Then you all head over to the buereaucrats with one of your friends posing as a Anchorperson for a "consumer-help show" (we certainly have a few of these in Norway, so I can't imagine you don't have any.) and the rest posing as camera crew (and your wife, naturally, posing as herself). Tell the unhelpful desk-person that you've come to make a ---- about the questionable service offered by public servants in the area, and that you would like to follow Mrs. Frauenfelder through the process of getting this ticket paid.

I can't imagine it taking more than 15 minutes, with an apology to boot. :)

This was a question from a caller to the Everett Newton Show (a legal talk show here in the Dallas area) and he said -- if I remember correctly -- that basically, you do just have to put up with the ordeal. Some jurisdictions have regulations about throwing matters out when theyre not handled in a timely manner, but seeing as how youre not in Dallas, Everett probably couldnt help you with that.

Supposedly, hes really good with responding to e-mails of a legal nature, so even though youre not in Dallas, go to his Web site and ask away

Have you tried the speedy trial argument? Your wife could ask to go to court over the ticket. At that point, the city would be required to provide her with a speedy trial. If she's planning to pay, she could show up, plead guilty, hand them the check, and be done.
Do you have the officer's badge number from the ticket? You could call the station and talk to him directly. At least then you might know what day it got fixed so your wife can pay it right away....
The officer should have signed the ticket and his badge number should be on it. You might try finding him...through your LAPD......he should have a daily record of activities and you could get the ticket dated that way.

Kind of far out thinking, but it might work!

Hey Mark, best of luck with that. Up here (Canada), if information is missing or incorrect on a ticket I believe it invalidates it. After all, if there is no date and no record who's to say when the event occurred. The officer could easily forget andenter an incorrect date which would put you in arrears and your wife would be subject to the penalties you mention.

Much as I hate to say it you should either get a definitive answer from research or engage a lawyer.

Saw your article and figured I'd contribute my two cents' worth. I'm a firm believe in 'action through intimidation through embarrassment', so here's what I'd do.

1. Letter to your insurance company outlining the situation; send it registered, so you have a record, and let them know you'll also be doing step 2...

2. Letter to the City Clerk, Chief of Police and Mayor, outlining the situation and asking them what to do. Explain your concerns over the arrest warrant, driving record, insurance issues, etc, and then say that, if they can't help, you'd be happy to share your situation with the media to solicit advice from the public. Give them a week to respond.

3. If you don't get an answer, send the same letter to the LATimes and the big news stations (who may have 'troubleshooter/problemsolver' teams to address things like this).

Also, can you contact the officer in question? He might be able to help. Good luck.

There's only one solution when a half-assed bureaucracy is eating you alive:

Contact the politicals. Send a letter (hard-copy is best) to the mayor, his police chief, the director of the ticket office, every member of the city council, and maybe a few journos who cover local issues. Make sure to note on the letter every person that it's been sent to, so everybody knows that everybody else is seeing it. "CC:, CC:, CC:, CC:...

Recount the narrative, being as polite as possible. Maybe say if the person you spoke to was actually nice and polite, but hadn't been given any way to help you. Make maybe one statement at the end saying that you really can't believe the city would allow this to happen, would it? Moreover, you'd be shocked if, now that the city has been notified of this problem, if it didn't fix it permanently...

Make sure to include a copy of the ticket. Say when and where you discussed the matter at the ticket office with as much precision as possible.

It's actually surprising how responsive the politicals can be, particularly when they know that other people know about something. And, in reality, they like to help people who sound nice more than they like to help people who rant and rave about how stupid everything is. (Half-lucid ranting and raving is what a vast proportion of constituent letters are like, so yours would be a breath of fresh air.)

All you should have to do is mail the envelopes and wait. Make sure to include your address and phone #.

I had a wild experience with traffic court in Atlanta where the officer had written my name poorly on the ticket and it ended up spelled differently in the records. I paid the fine by mail (and got a receipt and canceled check to show) and then subsequently got a mailed notice to pay the fine again plus an additional fine for not showing up in court, along with a threat of arrest. I have my invalid mother living with me and she received the second notice while I was out of the country and she paid the second bill out of fear. Otherwise I would have contested any later actions with the receipt. I am not going to go through what it takes to try to get a refund.

The upshot is, the traffic court did not turn down the money either time even when they werent sure who way paying it. My suggestion is go ahead and pay the ticket by mail and send them a copy of the ticket along with it. Use a money order to pay and keep proof of payment. Send by certified mail.

Saw your post about your wifes predicament. Thats a real thicket. You might want to consider hiring an attorneythe possibility of your wife getting arrested on an outstanding warrant is real, though slight (there are probably thousands of people with warrants running around LA right now).

But lawyer fees are expensive. There is something you might try first. (What I am describing is the way it would work in OhioI do not really know if our set-up is at all analogous to CA, but it is something to go on.) Go down to traffic court. In OH, you would ask if you could talk to the duty prosecutor. (Again, dont know the analogous term for CA, but most busy courthouses have a prosecutor and judge assigned to deal with oddball matters occurring outside the regular caseload.) It might be a LONG wait.

The person you see (if you get that far) may run the gamut from decent, but harried, to raging a-hole. Explain your situation. (It is possible, though unlikely, that the missing date makes the ticket defective on its face and it will be dismissed.) More likely, the prosecutor can amend the ticket. This is what you want as it will allow you pay it. You might even ask for a no point violation. The prosecutor might scoff, but might also do it to get rid of you. He or she is very busy (and grossly underpaid) and really doesnt care all that much about your wifes left turn.(In Ohio, you would ask for a bond forfeiture to an equipment violation such as a missing mufflerno idea if that would fly in LA). That would help you avoid the expense of driving school. That aint cheap.

Good luck. If people keep stonewalling you, I would hire an attorney despite the expense.

Your citation should have the arresting officers name or badge number, as well as his or her precinct. You can try to contact the officer directly to see if the ticket is lost or perhaps will never be filed for some reason. Or its stuck in the seat of his cruiser, and hes still going to file it. Either way, though, you have been pro-active in resolving the matter, and that will come out should it become a big legal to-do. Call the precinct, my .02
I am not sure about LA, but in some jurisdictions if the ticket is not complete (i.e. date not entered), it is not a valid ticket and cannot be acted upon - so it may never be entered into the system.

The person who would enter the ticket into the system is the officer who wrote the ticket.

Try reaching the officer by calling the LAPD and asking for him by name. Explain to him that you don't want to get fined/arrested for late payment of a ticket and just want to know when it will be entered into the system. The office may have just decided not to enter it.

This kind of thing happens in the Netherlands all the time. "Our fault; your tough luck" is the default position in these cases. The only way to break that logjam is to go back early and get a supervisor to sort it out *in writing*. Get names. Keep escalating until you get somebody responsible or at least someone you can write to. Once it's sorted out, keep the ticket and receipt for payment with your insurance card in case whoever fixed it only did some kludge and it comes back to haunt you.

Alternatively, when the ticket finally shows up in the system and an arrest warrant sworn out, don't go outside, but try to get written adjudication (?) or, failing that, a court datewhen you can present the ticket to the judge. Document your attempts to sort it out to show youspent a lot of time ingood faith.Between the lack of a ticket date and the trouble ithascaused(and will cause) it'll likely get thrown out. You might need a lawyer for the court date.

I love LA (well i live in Glendale) Keepthe ticketjust in case but forget about it. The ticket is in error and you dont have to worry about it. I saw first hand a judge throw out a ticket because the officer had the wrong time (AM insted of PM) on the ticket. I my self had one thrown out becuse the date was incorrect (right date wrong day of week). Just keep the thing arond it wll probobly fall throuhgh the cracks. If it doesnt, FIGHT THE TICKET. Have her plea "NOT GUILTY", DONT SAY "no contest"(its a trick ) make shure she points out to the judge that the officer didnt even write the date and that she is quesitoning the judgement of the officer at the time (meaning he THOGHT she was speeding but she wasnt). This throws a wrench in his decision making. In the end she wont have to loose the money or the time on Trafic school.
She should definitely document everything as it happens and when she goes in, have the counter clerk sign a statement that they wouldn't accept the tiocket.

Then just wait for them to contact you :o)

Does the ticket have a court date on it? When you get a ticket you are being arrested. Signing the ticket is receiving bail in return for promising to appear in court (or you can plead guilty and pay the fine through the mail). How you are getting screwed is that you have a right to a speedy trial. If it takes more than something like two weeks to get a court date, you could probably go to court and ask to have the ticket dismissed because you were denied due process, etc. In any event, you have to be given a court date and then you have to miss the court date before the judge can issue a bench warrent.
I had a ticket thrown out once because of it lacking a date. It's a legal document, and has to be complete. She might be able to simply contest it as invalid; otherwise, it's put her into a Catch-22 situation, where she can't pay it and can't ignore it. Is there a court date listed? Appear, and even better, have an attorney alongside.
Why not just write the date that the ticket was actually issued, on the ticket (if it's carbonized, get a piece of carbon paper, obviously), and take that into the office (any office, maybe one you haven't been to yet). If it's not in their database, say -- "Well, why don't you enter it now because here's the ticket with the date on it." My only other idea is to overthrow consensual reality (for more reasons than this) and just be done with all of the stupidity once and for all.
Most traffic tickets include the following:
(1) a mailing address,
(2) the amount of the fine (on the back, usually checked, at least in Santa Clara County),
(3) relevant identifying information.

I suggest you make a copy of the ticket, and then mail a check for $135, and the original ticket, to the provided mailing address.

I paid a fine that way once, and underpaid by accident (fine was $55, and I accidentally paid $45), and simply got a notice that the fine was not paid in its entirety.

Hope this helps. Best of luck.

I'm not a lawyer, but surely the fact that the ticket was not filled in properly makes it invalid? I would think you would have a good chance of your wife getting off this one scot free.
Write the mayor? Arnie?
First off, my sympathy to your wife on her Kafka-esque experience. This is the kind of thing that will probably be funny in hindsight but must be just a nightmare when it's going on.

My wife used to work for an LA City Councilman's office, and they dealt with stuff like this all this time. Have your wife call your councilman's office and tell whoever answers, "I'm having an issue with a traffic ticket. Who should I speak to?" Unless things have changed since we lived in LA, your wife will be put through to a "Field Deputy". Basically, a field deputy is a staff person who works on the councilman's behalf to help constituents. As with everything, some field deputies are more competent and helpful than others. But as a general rule, a field deputy works for your elected official (and so they have a strong incentive to make sure that you, the voter, are happy) and they deal with this kind of thing all the time (so they know who to speak to, and probably have access to phone numbers and supervisor's names that you don't.) So, there's a pretty good chance that they will be able to help your wife if she explains the crazy situation.

One general tip, which you probably know already but is still worth mentioning--the field deputies spend all day dealing with people who have had really unpleasant experiences with the government, and a few of those people seem really eager to take that unpleasantness out on the poor field deputy. By contrast, other callers start off with the much nicer mindset of "This deputy is on my side, and finds government incompetence just as frustrating as I do." Obviously deputies do their best to help both kinds of caller, but it's much easier to help somebody who gets that you're really trying to help them and is willing to work with you. I guess what I'm saying is, be nice to the people who have the job my wife used to have! Like I said, you probably don't need to be told that, but I can't resist the urge to mention it.

Good luck to your wife, and I hope you'll post and let BoingBoing's readers know how it turns out.

Get someone at the police station to make some affidavit about the situation: your wife came to pay, the ticket has no date, it is not entered in the database, cannot pay. At least you'll have this document to back you up.
we had something similar happen to us just over a year ago. hopefully it will all work out better for you. we are in san francisco and my partner got a ticket for making an illegal left turn in a place that the sign wasn't clear.

when he went to the site, no ticket. he also called and was told it wasn't in the system and might take several weeks to show up. just as you wife was told, he couldn't contest it, register for traffic school and/or pay the fine.

to make a long story short, by the time the ticket was in the system it was to late to contest or sign up for traffic school. we got nowhere with it, paid the fine and our insurance just went up 75%. not too long ago i saw a post on craigslist about someone having the same problem and wondering what to do.

is it a scam or just inept bureaucracy?

sorry i don't have any answers - only advice to call everyday.

Hello mark. I live in LA and have had two delinquent traffic tickets so far, and neither of them have proven to be as big of a deal as they initially seem. Once the ticket is entered into the system and flagged as delinquent (as the lady at the oh-so-helpful ticket office said), she should receive a pink notice in the mail stating that she had not paid her ticket. What you do at this point is go to the courthouse of whatever city that issued the ticket (example, Pasadena courthouse or West LA courthouse, it should say which one on the notice), and stand in line to see a traffic clerk, and set up a court date to see the judge (usually a couple of weeks later). She most likely won't get a warrant right away, upon initial delinquency, the fine gets jacked up (sometimes to over $600), but once you appear in court and talk to the judge, the judge will cut that back down to about what the original amount was. Your wife has a really good excuse for not paying on time, so there's a very good chance that the judge will not add any penatly fee to the initial fine. In fact, there's a chance the judge may dismiss it altogether. It will basically take up about twho hours in line to set up the court date (or you may be able to do online after getting the delinquent ticket notice), and maybe another three on the actual date she is set up to see the judge. It beats having to call the courthouse office every week (which would be an exercise in futility in any case), and unless you are close personal friends with a judge here in LA, it is about your only option.
Firstly, this is why you have local council representatives - go speak to one of them. If made to understand the situation they should be able to pull the right strings to get it sorted out.

Secondly, try to speak to the issuing cop. This will probably involve leaving a message at the station. If they insist on taking a reason for the call, say "the city won't let me pay the traffic ticket", which should at least pique his curiosity. Be conciliatory, don't blame him - it's a simple oversight. Make it clear you do intend to pay the fine, but the city won't accept it unless the date error is fixed up, and the only person "with the authority" (use that, cops love that) to fix it up is him.

I don't know how the traffic code works over there but in Australia that ticket would have to be waived as invalid since it was not dated. The police officer cannot reliably prove she made the left turn on that particular date. A technicality of course but a very handy one if the same holds true for your case.
Last year, a similar thing happened to me with a fare evasion ticket for SF's muni system. I had the ticket, but it wasn't in the system, so I could no pay it on the net. I stood in line at the courthouse for a few hours only to find out as far as they knew, there was no ticket. Turns out the ticketing officer's don't turn in tickets until they have whole piles of them- but lucky for us, the countdown for tardy tickets does not start until the ticket is in the system. Your wife should be fine - she will get a letter after it is entered, and have 3 months to pay it off.
If there is a substantial difference between the contents of your ticket and anything entered by the "officer" that is grounds for legal dispute and overturning the effect of the ticket.

Having no date on your ticket would void the ticket, if the court gets to view it. There is no way you can mount a defense because the offense is not accurately detailed. It's a process thing.

Give that a turn in the old ticket mill. Ask a law dog. In L.A. there's a law school some where.

Try contacting the issuing officer via phone -- most cops (traffic or otherwise) have a v.mail at their precinct. Leave a message with the ticket number and let him know it is not in the system due to the date issue. Ask that he call you back by the next day to confirm that he's got the message and all is clear.

If you don't hear from him, call that same precinct and ask for the Traffic Division and work your way to the commanding officer -- do the same thing as far as messages/conversations relaying the details of the ticket, the number, date issued and issuing officer info, etc., and again ask for a call back -- make sure you let them know that you left a message with all same info the previous day with the issuing officer.

That might help -- perhaps way more direct than dealing with someone who can only help WHEN the data is properly entered.

I don't have a copy of the LA Municipal Code handy, but I'll bet that there is a requirement that all citations must contain the date of the offense (serving as "notice" under that pesky Due Process Clause). I would have some fun with this by filing a Motion to Dismiss along with a Request for Hearing. Examples should be plentiful on the web. Fighting this will end up costing you a lot of time though. You'll have to balance that against the entertainment value of driving the bureaucracy crazy.

My guess is that the officer voided the ticket because he noticed he forgot the date. You may be able to ride this out for six months and then not have to worry.

Whatever you decide to do, document all contacts with court personnel. This may be necessary if, in a worst-case scenario, a warrant is actually issued and you have to explain to a judge why the ticket was not paid timely.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not offering legal advice here, just suggesting options "for entertainment value only."

get what the lady at the counter said documented (when you were there, her name, what she said, proof you were there, proff that the number was not in the database the day you were there,.....). Somehow something of that long list of details will get lost. And then you have a warrent on your butt and nothing to show for it. Go back and repeat the exercise, and take a witness with you too.
I would follow whatever guidelines were provided for those without e-mail or a phone, and use the amount that the clerk gave you (if there was no calculator on the ticket) and send a check by mail.

Welcome back to the early 20th century.

If the check comes back to you or is never cashed you did the right thing and have nothing to fear but random consequence. What are the chances the clerk that talked to your wife recorded the details of the conversation she had with her? Zero.

I just read your post on BoingBoing about the LA traffic ticket office. It sounds very frustrating.

I'm no expert on traffic tickets, but the one thing that your wife should certainly do is to start getting things in writing. When everything finally grinds through the system and they want to send your wife to jail forever for unpaid traffic fines, or charge her under the Patriot Act, or whatever, things will go a lot better if she has some kind of written record.

I suggest that she should immediately write a letter to the ticket office explaining the situation and summarizing what she was told. Send it in some form that requires a signature as confirmation of delivery. She could also write a summary of the advice she was given and what she was told about the state of the database and the cause of the problem, go back to the office, ask the employee on duty to verify that it is correct, and ask them to sign and date it. Similarly, she could ask them to sign a statement confirming that she presented herself at the office to pay the ticket on a specified date. If the employee won't sign, she should ask to see a supervisor who will. Have her go with another person (probably not you), so that in the event that they won't do anything to help, that person can testify that they refused to comply with her request. Add their notarized statement, including the name of the employee she spoke to, to your document pile.

If nothing else, a written record might simplify future interactions with other employees. Fear of taking responsibility might also encourage the person at the desk to pass your wife on to someone who can actually resolve the problem.

Another possibility would be to identify the precinct that the traffic cop came from, and contact them to request that they update their records appropriately. Again, going in person and taking the name and badge number of anyone you deal with who refuses to help may be useful.

Get the names of all the people you speak to, and get as much as you can in writing.

Hope you manage to resolve this: it really does sound as if Kafka is alive and well and working for the LAPD.

Perhaps the ticket contains the officer's badge number or name? Go call the local precinct and see if they can get him to fix the problem.
Try contacting thepolice dept.and talking to the officer that wrote the ticket, or his supervising officer, at least; and explain the situation. His signature Dept. number and should be somewhere close to the bottom or on the back, depending on what state your from. Hope that helps.
I don't know about your jurisdiction, but in my jurisdiction, parking tickets that are not correctly filled out by the officer cannot be considered valid, and will be voided. (I had one once and it was waived without my asking - my guess is that claiming that an invalid ticket is actually valid comes with its own set of penalties.)

If you have the ticket showing no date, perhaps (if the above applies) you could try this route.

Here in Ontario, we have traffic ticket specialist companies. I'd be surprised if the same wasn't true in California.

I have used these techniques to beat many tickets for people. (Me, I only get parking tickets in NYC, but I can usually beat those.)

Here's a quick note about what you might consider doing.

If the officer left off the date, the ticket is defective on its face. Same goes for any of the other information, including VIN, year registration expires, etc. You need to know what information is required for your jurisdiction. This may be hard to find out; many municipalities will refuse to tell you. So you'll need to send them a Discovery Demand and when they don't comply, whammo!

You can also contest radar evidence. I've got a packet to send you on that. You need to file a Discovery Demand for the radar certification, the tuning fork certification, the officer's certification, etc. Many times they screw up and let the units go out of calibration.

Or they won't comply with discovery, and you get the case bounced for that.

NOW, having said that, many judges don't care. They simply do not care about the law, about your rights, etc.

I once had a municipal clerk -- this was a $22 expired meter fine -- tell me that I had no right to contest a ticket on these grounds, and refused to file my papers. Yes, that's right -- refused to file papers, even though it is up to the judge to determine if my defense is valid. She told me that the officer only has to fill out parts of the form she feels is necessary.

Really. Now, just imagine if this was how search warrants worked.


I don't know about LA rules, but in Atlanta, the ticket would be invalid if not dated. Go to court and challenge the charges. Since there is no date on the ticket, it will look like negligence on the officer's part. Your supposed to be able to go to court and challenge any allegations that are accused about you by any body. In the worst case, if you loose, you'll pay the same fee anyway. But, if the ticket isn't filled out correctly, it's not supposed to be valid. A date is very important. The officer probably won't show up in court anyway and you can debate it with the judge. If you have any friends that are lawyers, see if you can get them to help you.
I learned a very hard lesson in Superior Court in Maine(I was pro-se, litigated for 3.5 yrs) when I was told (even in writing) not to pay a fee because of clerical/paperwork reasons. The Judge later showed no leniency to me but did give me a lesson. In a nutshell "Always tender payment". Get either a certified bank check or a postal money order and send it certified mail including any info you have. If they do not accept it you will have what the Court will demand: Proof that you tendered payment. Hope this helps.
Please be advised that I am completely, utterly not a lawyer, and bear that in mind when evaluating how valuable my advice might be.

If nobody has any useful legal tricks to try, I'd recommend that you and your wife head down to the ticket office with a video camera. Videotape your wife as she attempts to pay the ticket, and then ask the clerk to explain on camera exactly what the situation is and what they expect her to do. Have the clerk state the date on camera. Make three copies of the tape and keep them in safe places so that you absolutely don't lose the footage. Check back with the ticket office as often as you feel is worthwhile. If a warrant is issued for her arrest, or they try to raise the amount of the fine, contest it and bring the video along to show to the judge.

This footage might also prove interesting to local news, and that might bring some pressure to bear on your behalf.

Alternately, check to see if the officer's name and/or badge number is on the ticket. Contact the police and, depending on how angry you are, either ask the officer to fix the ticket, or ask the officer's supervisor to fix the officer.

I hope these ideas are somehow helpful. If you end up being sent to the electric chair, you have my sympathies, but I disclaim all responsibility. :)

I had a similar problem happen to me. I received a ticket, tried to pay/get information from lasuperiorcourt.com, but they had no information on the ticket. All I wanted to do was give them my money- about $75. I called the number on the ticket, and was informed that I would need to call back next week as they had no record of the offense. I did, and they still had no information on the ticket. I asked the official if I needed to call back next week, and she said yes. I asked if I needed to call back every week forever. She said yes. So I called back for a few weeks and checked the website. Months elapsed and I forgot about the ticket. Apparently they found the ticket at some point, processed it and curiously it went almost immediately into collections. I found this out by getting a notice from a collections agency- they had no problem finding me. The only way to avoid having my license suspended was to go to some window at a courthouse in Pasadena and pay the $600 odd dollars (the extra money was to cover collections fees!!) I hope your wife's left turn is not as expensive as my failure to yield.
Just read about your wife's traffic ticket situation on boingboing...

I'd say the first thing I'd recommend is to get everything in writing from the ticket office. Even better, get it on official letterhead.

Next, I'd say hire a lawyer (yeah, yeah, I know).

Third, I'd suggest telling the ticket office that they have 48 hours to resolve the situation, before you call the local news. I'm sure they'd love to do an investigative story on this sort of thing (I don't know if they would or not, but I'm sure the ticket office doesn't know that either).

Finally, I'd say fight the ticket. Even if she was at fault, this amount of frustration and stupidity on their part should count as time served.

Go back in to the office, video camera in hand, and tape your wife going through the rigamarole with the woman at the counter. Then go home, burn a copy of the tape onto two DVDs. Keep one of the DVDs in your car at all times, and keep the other at home. Possibly put a compressed version on the web.

Then do nothing at all until the ticket raises it's head, if it ever does, and pull out the tape to defend yourself against the stupidity.

Oh, and maybe call once every six months, just in case.

I would make a copy of your posting, that describes the sequence of events, go to the ticket office again, add a paragraph that says that she did appear the send time, and have someone there date and sign it.

"I want to speak with your Supervisor." is a good broken record to use when they tell you that they won't sign it.

Then do nothing. It's entirely possible that the ticket will NEVER be entered.

Oh, and I would send a copy of the signed thingy to your insuirance agent, as well, to be kept on file.

I find that the best way to deal with bureaucracies is to keep asking to speak to the supervisor until you get the answer you want. Just say, "I'd like to talk to your supervisor, can I have his home phone number?" If that doesn't work, start climbing. On a totally botched airline flight, I went all the way up to the Vice President of Alaska Airlines without much effort and in return I got some first class tickets and a full-page personal letter from the man himself signed by his own hand.

I just read your post on speeding ticket.

Take the ticket and acertified checkfor the $135and drop it the mail.Save a photocopy of them both and let them deal with it.

You might want to take a picture of you at the bank in front of the little date thing they have at the teller window for effect.

The only risk that you run with this approach is that the entire city will come to a screaching halt and that the mayor may have to get involved.

But i think its a risk worth taking.

Up here in Canada, if a police officer has made a mistake of any kind on the ticket, the ticket it null and void.

My suggestion is to check this out with a traffic violation legal service (we have things like "ExCopper" where former police officers act as legal reps for traffic violation proceedings) - I am sure that you'll get out of the ticket unscathed on a technicality.

An example of this in action: a friend was giving a speeding ticket for driving 80 kph in a 50kph zone. It was noted on the ticket that this was a special school crossing zone (a specific stretch of a kilometre that has a couple of schools where drivers can't drive over 30 kph during school hours - speeding in this zone increases the fine dramatically). Here's the technical error: the site of the ticketing was some 2 km away from this school zone and so the ticket contained a factual error rendering the ticket unenforcable.

Since your wife's ticket has no date on it, it cannot be said to apply to any day at all, rendering the ticket null and void.

Mind you, you are in a different city/state/country than I (Hamilton/Ontario/Canada), on top of which is the fact that I'm not trained in traffic legalities - so YMMV.

Hope this helps a little :)

Many fines/penalties have something called a "good faith attempt" clause... though I know nothing about LA/California.

You can also write a check (and Xerox it) along with a xerox of the ticket and send it to the county office. If they cash the check, you're all set. You'll have a cancelled check. If they don't cash the check, you've at least got a xerox of the check you sent.

Other than that, the solution is to go to the courthouse and demand to see the person's supervisor until things are cleared up. Get shuffled up from supervisor to supervisor until you meet the magic person who knows how to solve problems like this.

Publicizing the event was a great step, too. Though obviously the scary part is how this relates to people who don't have that ability and end up in the same situation...

Good luck.

I would file a plea of not guilty with the clerk, and if she won't take it, send it by registered mail with return receipt also so you have plenty of evidence that you sent it.

If they haven't set up a court date for you in 45 days, then when they finally get around to filing the ticket, you can go to the judge and ask for dismissal based on the fact that your 6th ammendmant right to a speedy trial was violated. What ever you do, do not ask for or accept an extension or waive time which means you waive your right to a speedy trial. They may try to trick you into doing that. For help with this sort of stuff, I usethe Nolo press book "Fight you Ticket in California (9th California edition) by David Wayne Brown available from amazon.com

Contact the Los Angeles Office of the Controller's office


That's the web address for contacting the Los Angeles Office of the Controller; it's their responsibility to make sure that the city's resources are being used wisely -- and they would shy in horror from the cost of the time for the paperwork that would be required if your wife was tripped up by this problem. I would say that they're also responsible for keeping procedures efficient -- and since your wife is being tripped up by a procedure gone wrong, contacting the Controller comes to mind as a good advice.

Ask for a court hearing on the ticket. If your wife has been charged with a moving violation, she has a right to appear in traffic court. The court may be able to create a hearing from your copy of the citation, even though the officer has not submitted his. The odds of the court's stonewalling you should go down, but if they don't, you could write a letter to the judge. At some point, somebody has to recognize your rights as a citizen.

Traffic court is fascinating. If the officer doesn't show up, the judge may still ask your wife how she pleads. She should say "Not Guilty". It is not her responsibility to convict herself. Upon hearing the plea, the judge may ask her to elaborate on why she is not guilty. She should only reply that she is not guilty, for the same reason. Most defendents continue with some baloney story, which is amusing and pathetic. There is quite a bit of strategy to be worked in court. The police have to prove their cases, and sometimes they are not prepared. Maybe your wife is not actually guilty. It is worth a study.

Call your local council representative. They live for this kind of thing. I've gotten all manner of constituent service out of mine.

If LA is like Atlanta (and it is), nobody knows how the system is supposed to work. But council members have the authority to knock enough heads together to make something happen.

If that fails, scour the local tv and radio stations for a "problem solver" type reporter. I once got an illegal tire dump cleaned up that way. Sanitation (who you would think was in charge of picking up trash) had refused to do anything about it for a year. But nobody likes to be asked about that on camera.

Contact your city councilman, alderperson, or whatever you call 'em out there.

Similarly, for a state or federal problem, contact your representative or senator.

Politicians get re-elected for service to constituents, and vote on the budget for their part of government's offices. Your city councilman should have someone on staff who can call the LA Superior Court and ask why their employees were so unhelpful, and that call will get a lot more attention than yours.

Good luck.

If you wait and call every day, this ticket will certainly go to warrant and will cost you around $500.00. The Judge won't care that you did what the clerk told you. Go back tomorrow, demand to see the judge, tell your story and ask him to throw the ticket out. You should not have to suffer for an error the Police Officer made. It interferes with your speedy trial rights and in no way should limit your options. It is not your fault or concern thatthe court does not have your info. It was, at one time, a reason to throw out a ticket if it was not filled out correctly, that has changed. I assure you waiting will only get you in more trouble. Good luck.

lawyer. period. one of those cheap ones that specialize in traffic tickets. no date, no fine.

Find out the traffic court that has jurisdiction for the "location of the violation," (County Traffic Court) take the ticket, a copy of the ticket and a written copy of what the jerkoff official told you and present copies to the court clerk, with your appropriate contact information. Oh it wouldn't hurt to get written verification from the court clerk of your documents presentation to the court, in case they get lost. Ask for followup contact from the court or a summons when they wish you to pay the undated/unpayable ticket. As soon as they contact you, you can sign up your wife for school without repercussions.

Never accept an unknown resolution always ask to speak to the next higher supervisor until you get either a date or a solution. This is how the system tricks people into contributing more cash to a system that runs on petty power and penalties. Remember to use the phrase "Ignorance is no excuse." "Someone is going to have to resolve this problem you seem to have with your system." "I want it in writing that you personally refuse to accept payment for this ticket."

Write to your congress-persons (federal and state) and your city counsel.

Hire a traffic court specialty lawyer, failing to date the citation when it was issued is a violation of due process, and any good lawyer can have it thrown out on that basis.

Let me first say I am not sure if my advice would apply being you live in California and I live in New York.Here it goes anyway, In New York a ticket without a date is null and void, we have a traffic violations bureau and usually all we have to do is point out to the judge that the ticket has no date at which point he voids the ticket(everything has to be perfect on the ticket) So I guess my advice is to contest the ticket (plead not guilty) and the clerk would be forced to set a date and I would assume you would be in the clear until that date. I really hope this was of some help.

My biggest suggestion revolves around two givens:

1. You want to find a solution that doesn't screw you both;

2. You want to make sure that you create an official record of your efforts, to use if LA tries to screw you worse in the future.

With that in mind, I'd say that the person to contact is the LA County ombudsman:


Do it via phone AND fax (keeping the fax confirmation page), and explain the exact conversation that Carla had with the ticket office clerk. Having worked with a variety of ombudsmen in the past, I'd be *shocked* if he doesn't get something moving ASAP. And it satisfies the need for an official record of your inquiries and your willingness to pay for the ticket if only the city would LET you. That'll be the important thing.

for my daughter we simply paid the bill . got a receipt thatstated we did so ..also find the officer.

Can you tell from the ticket who the officer was? If so, contact him directly, and maybe he can tell you when it's entered in the computer system.

Good luck with this.

Read about your Kafka-esque ticket problem on boingboing.net.

Track down the cop that wrote the ticket. The ticket must have his badge number or name or station on it.


Go to the local court and demand a hearing on the ticket. It's not your fault people don't know how to do their paperwork. Maybe the judge will be impressed with your willingness to clear up the matter and suspend the fine.

Good luck.

If you can afford the time, I suggest you head over to Nolo press and get a copy of "Fight Your Ticket" to understand the process.


A ticket is a promise to appear in court - the fine is actually bail. The easy way out is plead guilty and forfit bail. LA County has decided to not make this easy.

If you fight the ticket, chances are the LA cop will not even show up in court - you win - no fine - no traffic school. If the cop does show up, missing entering a date on the ticker is sufficient grounds for challenging the legitimacy of the rest of the ticket.

I have beaten 3 tickets using this book.

I'd plead not guilty on the ticket and wait for a court date. see if that cop will show up in front of a judge after screwing that up and causing the problem at hand. any speeding ticket I've ever gotten allows you to check the 'not guilty' box and get a court date. YMMV.

Just read your ticket trouble on boingboing and thought I'd ask if you had tried to track down the issuing officer or his superior? If the officers information is on the ticket it may be a place to start.

I would got the LAPD precinct office where the officer is based. The Senior Lead Officer will be able to help you contact the officer, as he is likely in a better position than the court to help your wife resolve the issue. Good luck.

I got a ticket in Santa Cruz County and my wife tried to pay it (seatbelt ticket). They gave her the same runaround but said that she would be notified by mail when the ticket was entered into the database. I think that even in LA this is modus operandi, and Carla shouldn't worry about a warrant or penalty or any other such nonsense. Just call every week, don't stress it-- I'm fairly confident that they won't penalize her for her own error, no matter what the unfortunetely uninformative woman at the office may have told her.

Suggestion: do not leave your car on the street.

My boyfriend pays his parking tickets [we've got nightly opposite-side street sweeping, and they also like to ticket us for parking our permitted car in the permit area [really. all the fucking time.] so we've got tickets once or twice a month] using Oakland's automated phone system, but they've had an ongoing huge backlog of tickets to enter into the system because of budget constraints, so he has to keep calling back to see if they'd got his ticket in yet. It's the same deal if you go down to pay it, they don't have it keyed in so AFATC, it doesn't exist. Then one day we received a note in the mail from the traffic department saying we had three outstanding tickets from March and April that had just been entered into the system in *November*, tripled to $150 each because it was so long since they'd originally been written up.

The next day, we came outside and found our car missing. When we called to report it stolen, they told us it was listed as towed for unpaid parking tickets. We had to pay the $450 in tickets and close to $600 in various fees to get it back, because of the overdue tickets that the city didn't recognize and wouldn't accept payment for just two days before, and, of course, they made absolutely no restitution even though everyone at the three offices he had to pay various fees at before getting the car back, and the people we called and wrote to afterward, said it should not have happened, that the city was totally at fault, that many other people have had the same thing happen. If LA's government is anything like Oakland's, you're just fucked coming and going and there's not a damn thing you can do -- everyone's really sorry this happened but they honestly don't give a shit. My sympathies.

It sounds like L.A. has a similarly antiquated system to the one that NYC and NYS had.

This may work for you -- no guarantees -- you have to decide if its worth the hassle:

In 1997 or so, I got a speeding ticket in South Hampton -- its a straight up extortion racket. My "crime" -- doing 45 in an unlabeled 30 on Sunday morning at 7am -- was $360 ! Put that into context This was over 7 years ago -- thats a lot of $$$

Mind you, I have a "courtesy shield" that -- short of armed murder -- usually works very well. Back when I was practicing law, I represented (on occasion) cops or their families. So I know how the system woks, and what one should and should not say. Yes, I was speeding -- but it was an empty road at a godforsaken hour; This cop was a hardass -- So I was pretty incensed.

I refused to robbed by the town (the fine was exhorbitant), but wanted to keep my license clean.

So I came up with an alternative -- it might work for your wife:

I simply let my license lapse. Ignored the one or two letters about the ticket. Then I waited one full year and a day after my license lapsed -- and renewed it. No ticket showed up, no outstanding charges! Seems the year long lapse purged the system of outstanding tickets., money owed and warrants.

Got pulled over once or twice while it was expired, but talked my way past it (the shield didn't hurt)

Anyway, its worth a shot if she can go a year without a license . . .

Maybe I'm oversimplifying this, but has your wife considered talking to a supervisor at the ticket office? Ideally, you should just be able to call the supervisor, but often the personal touch works best.

Failing that, your wife does have the badge number and/or name of the police officer who wrote the ticket. I'd suggest contacting him via his precinct/bureau or through the central LAPD (lapdonline.org) offices. There must be some way of tracking this individual down--better yet tracking down his supervisor and calmly explaining that you really want to pay this ticket, but you can't because his officer missed a very small and minor detail while writing the ticket. Better yet, perhaps because of this oversight, the ticket could be deleted.

From my experience working in a bureaucracy for the last 14 years, the best approach is to keep it simple. There's always--and I mean always--someone higher up the line who should/must take the call. And eventually (this requires patience) you hit the person who can actually fix the problem.

Attack it from a logical point of view. You have a corrupt record (the ticket) and you need to repair it. In order to do this, you need to find the right level of access (administrator) who has global read/write priveleges --or-- you can track down the corrupting script (the traffic cop) and force (via supervisor) for the script to re-run, this time with a debugger (the cop's direct supervisor) running to ensure the data isn't corrupted yet again.

I'm out of my depth with this metaphor so I'll stop now.

Good luck. And stay patient and calm. These people you're dealing with have no interest in helping a screamer. You need to finesse them with a cheerful demeanor at first to get them on your side. Consider it social engineering a la Mitnick, but without the insidious purpose. How ironic, you'd be using tactics that Mitnick used to avoid security to get caught.

I'm not sure if it works this way where you live, but I have two suggestions for you:

First, have you tried contacting the officer about this? His name and badge number should be on the ticket. Maybe he can contact the county office and get the date straightened out.

Also, I wondered if the ticket shows the court date for the charge. Since a ticket is effectively an arrest (you are released by your signature as a promise to appear in court or pay the fine), there needs to be a court date. Don't prepay it, have your wife go to court on the day of the case and speak to the prosecutor before the day's proceedings begin. Briefly explain the problem to the prosecutor, stress that she has a clean record (she does, right?) and ask for leniency.

Around here, with a clean record and a pre-trial chat with the prosecutor, he/she will recommend to the judge that you take the driving school in lieu of the fine. If the judge agrees, you get a new court date. Come back to the new court date with a signed certificate from the driving school, and the prosecutor drops the case. Tada! No infraction on your license, no points.

Where do you live in LA? I'd get in contact with someone at your State Senator's district office. Tell me whose district you're in (or just what block of what city you're in) and I can tell you, and I'll give you a contact in their office. I'm the Senate's graphic designer and know a lot of the staff, if not by face at least by name. I haven't met most of the Southern CA district staff but I know some of them to say HI via email.

at the very least, i'd advise getting all of this in writing on letterhead from someone as far up in the bureaucracy as you can find.

also, in some states, if the ticket is improperly filled out (eg, no date), it is invalid. i'm not sure if this is the case for california or not.

Every ticket has printed somewhere on it the method for contesting it. Generally, you write contesting the ticket first, and have an opportunity to request a hearing. The fact that the officer neglected to fill in the date is probably prima facie a reason for dismissing the ticket.

There is no reason in the world that your wife should have to pay this.

Besides the obvious, ask to speak to the woman's supervisor, I would suggest the following. Contact the police officer who wrote the ticket. Ask the officer if he can write you another ticket for the same infraction, this time filling out the ticket correctly. In addition, have him write out an affidavit for you swearing that the old ticket number is invalid, having been superseded by the new ticket number. If he won't do this for you, then go up his chain of command until you can find someone to order him to correct his mistake. That way you should be able to pay for the new ticket right away and have the old ticket summarily dismissed when it finally appears.

first of all, let me state that i love boing boing.

about the ticket, are you crazy? just walk out of there, and forget about it. they ACTIVELY prevented and prohibited you from paying the ticket. the worst that would happen is that down the road it will be re-activated (or whatever) and it will come up again, probably the next time you have to renew or something like that. you may have to go in front of a judge of course, but I'd say until then, you're home free.

I had a similar thing happen to me. I went on vacation, and upon returning to LAX there was a ticket for not having a front license plate on my car ( first off, the fact that patrol the lax parking lots for this is insane. and second I had just moved from florida and just gotten my cali plates but didn't have the front bracket ). The ticket was from LAPD ( not lax cops ), and it was for 65 bucks. I did the same thing as you, went online to pay the ticket. the difference was that it did find the ticket but for some reason, it showed a balance due of $0. So I called, and after getting the runaround from 3 people I got a woman that told me that for some reason the officer didn't enter the data correctly, so don't worry about it. So I haven't, and in the last five months I haven't heard anything. not that this helps you at all, maybe try and contact the officer?

Probably I'd 1) document everything, and maybe 2) get a police report !

good luck

File a small claims case against the city. That will get their attention, and you might win enough to pay for the ticket; or get it thrown out entirely.

I read your story about the ticket. The badge number for the issuing officer should appear on the ticket. Contact the LAPD and have him correct it.

This is regarding your post on Boingboing about your wife's ticket. I'm not exactly sure I have any advice, but ironically I find myself in a similar situation. I'll tell you what I'm planning to do, and maybe it will spark your (or my) creative juices.

(I'll try to keep it concise...)

I live up here in Concord, CA. I was driving in Oakland.

I received a ticket for speeding and expired tags back on 22 Nov (my ticket _is_ dated). The cop wrote "12/22" (no time of day) at the bottom as my court appearance date, but advised me that I'd receive a courtesy notice with further instructions. I never received that notice (which is fine, there's no guarantee that they'll send one). Prior to 22 Dec, I started trying to get more info on the ticket via the web and phone, but the citation number always came up invalid (explained by both the web and phone systems as "not entered into the system -- it may take up to three weeks blah blah blah").

Finally on 21 Dec the citation showed up in the automated phone system. Success! The system read off my fines and assigned me a date of 10 Jan 05 as the date by which to plead guilty (and pay) or not guilty. Oddly, the phone system also said my ticket had been entered under the last name "GEORGE", which is obviously incorrect.

However, I've tried to call back later (many times) to verify my fine and the date and now the citation is back to not showing up in the phone system, nor still does it show up on the web. I'm faced with a situation where I don't know for sure how much to pay, or when to pay it by, and because it appears impossible to speak to a human on the phone, I have no way to find out.

Except by going to the Courthouse....

So here's what I'm planning to do.

(Disclaimer: I'm NOT a lawyer, and I don't really even know any. This isn't legal advice, it's just my amateur account of what I'm planning to do.)

Tomorrow I'm going to go to the Courthouse with the ticket and submit a Request for Trial By Written Declaration. You can find quite a bit of info about it on several ticket-fighting sites (I like -- I'm NOT affiliated with them in any way, I found them by Googling). Now, I'm not doing this to actually FIGHT the ticket (although I may end up getting it dismissed because of what I'm doing -- that would just be a bonus). What I expect this to do is the following: (1) it will force the clerk to actually look up my fine amount, since I have to remit bail when I file the form, and (2) it will give me a couple more weeks to actually remit payment, so a warrant won't be issued.

The reason I bring this up is because when you submit the Request for Trial by Written Declaration (as I understand it) that _is_ your plea. It counts as an appearance in court, so your wife doesn't have to worry about a failure to appear. Also, it will force the court to process that request, which should drive the citation to become active in the system. Whether they can or can't find the citation isn't the issue; at least your wife has done her part and entered a plea.

As a side note, if your wife has kept good notes about her visits (names of employees, etc.) I don't think she has much to fear about being assessed an "instant penalty" for the failure of the county clerk to enter the citation properly. I'll bet that would violate Due Process, although clearly you'd want to consult a lawyer on that.

Sorry for the lengthy email (especially since you'll probably hear from REAL lawyers in any case), but I thought I'd drop a line since I'm going through a vaguely similar situation. At least accept my empathy -- it's stressful and pointless and basically a waste of time that we all could better be spending on other things....

Happy New Year, and keep up the great work on boingboing.

You're in LA, sue. I don't really believe it is legal to refuse payment on a debt like that. Make a few calls and see if any lawyers are interested. I've had problems with clearing fines myself, kept getting a party-invite (warrant notice) every month. I finally stopped receiving the notices, as soon as they arrested someone because the fine wasn't cleared out of the database. I also find it funny how no follow-up on that story has shown up in the papers.

This sounds like an article for RISKS Digest.

RISKS digest is a mailing list on the RISKS of technology. A posting there will definitely make a dent. The list is read by people in high (and low) places worldwide. Postings there tend to get noticed.

Info on submitting is at: http://www.csl.sri.com/users/risko/risksinfo.html

Get a court date. Go to court. Ask to have it dismissed because it took so long, and she did not get a speedy trial.

I can't even begin to offer a solution out of this but my wife, who's a lawyer, says that your wife can't legitimately be issued a warrant or be required to pay the attendant fines if there's no date on the ticket to begin with. Any data entry of a date now would have to be back-dated which invalidates any penalty. At least that's how things would work in Michigan where we live.

Personally, I wouldn't be that optimistic. I got nabbed for a speeding ticket in June 2004 in the next town over. The cop gave me the ticket and everything looked was filled out fine. I didn't think that he had actually gotten my speed and so, long story short, I wanted to contest the ticket. So, I mailed it in by the 20 days it requires where I live in MA. Since then, I have not heard ANYTHING at all about it. I actually e-mailed the RMV because I was afraid I had missed the date or something, nope. Everything is fine as far as they are concerned, to them it's the court's problem. So here I sit, 6+ months later without any idea what is going on with my ticket or when it could come up for review, $150 hanging over my head. My friend had a similar problem when he got into an accident --it took him 3 tries just to get before the right magistrate. In other words, the traffic courts are Byzantine and difficult no matter what; you're probably just doing to have to ride it out.

If you have any lawyer friends, you might want to ask one of them if, without a date, this is a properly executed citation. IANAL, but I seem to recall that if the ticket isn't complete, it can be thrown out on a technicality.

Find the cop who wrote the ticket, or his/her supervisor. They'll have the original paperwork or access to it.

If all else fails, sue the city/county/municipality, and make it a media circus. :-)

I am not a lawyer, but one thing comes to mind that might help cover you. Build yourself a paper trail that you can take into court if things go badly. Be paranoid about it.

Write to the ticket office with an explanation of the problem and send it registered post, with delivery confirmation, and keep a copy. In the letter, politely request resolution of the matter, or failing that a written acknowledgment. Be nice, offer any assistance you can to help them resolve it. Keep a copy, the postal receipt, and the delivery confirmation.

If you don't get a response, or the response is unhelpful, send another similar one but this time arrange an audit trail and witnesses. For example, have someone respectable read it, watch you seal two copies in two envelopes (or have him do it), fed ex one to yourself and one to the ticket office. Again, keep all the paperwork. Maybe get your witness to write on your copy that it is the same as the one sent to the ticket office. Get them both on the same receipt and if necessary have your witness write the tracking numbers on it. When your copy arrives, do not open it; it's sealed and reliably dated. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

The idea is to predict how their lawyer might try and pick away at your audit trail, and look for ways to guard against that. Don't have your brother be the witness, get a priest or your kids' schoolteacher, or someone like that. Maybe have the fed ex clerk do it, someone who has no reason to lie for you.

Best case, faced with a paper trail they can't control, they resolve it. Next best, they respond and give you solid evidence that the issue is with their system. Worst case, you walk into court with a stack of provable paperwork that supports your story and demonstrates the effort you've put into trying to comply with the law.

Hope this helps, or at least gives you ideas that help.

BTW, my thanks for BoingBoing to you and all the crew.

You don't know me and I don't know you, but I can tell you that in both New York and Massachusetts a traffic citation where the officer has screwed up the paperwork, like the date, is not prosecutable. It will be thrown out. All you have to do is point this out to the proper person. Possibly even a court clerk or even someone at the DMV. Do some research. Call the traffic court and ask who ever answers. (hey the worst that can happen is they won't help you.) Ask your friends, check Google, look for legal assistance offices, whatever.

Good luck. Let us know what happens. (on boing boing of course.)

...call a lawyer.

I think you should go to court. You will probably get off due to the fact that the ticket is incorrect. I think you can get off pretty much anytime they make a mistake on the ticket, e.g. the color of the car, the location, etc.

It strikes me that the press would just love the story of your wife's ticket dilemma. It's got all the elements they like: stupid bureaucrats, a "little" person in opposition to "the system," etc. If I were you (or her), I would get in touch with the local newspapers and TV news shows about it.

Once the stories run, I'll bet you the situation gets remedied within 48 hours; bureaucrats HATE to look stupid in the press.

Do nothing until the ticket hits the system then go to court to contest the violation on the grounds that it was improperly expeditied by the officer, i.e no date whatsoever...All will be well and your license will be unaffected. It cannot be affected till the ticket enters the system anyway..Hope this helps. David Powell

I'm from the UK, so a different system, but we have a means for disputing the ticket which puts it into a real court rather than an automated system. Once you are in front of a judge (or magistrate or equivalent) who has the power to make decisions, he can either order you to pay the ticket in some specific non-Kafka way or declare that because the ticketing people haven't got their act together the ticket is void. Maybe something like this will work.

I may be out in left field, but in some states an incomplete ticket is not a ticket at all. Lack of a date would be an incomplete ticket. Further, if there is no date on the ticket, how can it be flagged a delinquent making your wife subject to a fine? Technically, the violation has not yet occurred! So cheer up!

We had similar problems.

Our solution was to leave California. Love it. Life begins when you leave California. In New Mexico things are small enough that people remember people. There are problems with systems here too; but people say - "Oh it is that again. Well we figured out get around that and fix it"

We used to live in Rocklin, California. A long time speed trap in California on I-80 east of Sacramento. Avoid it at all costs. The city feel on hard times and had it police department start writing tickets to raise revenue.

Soon they had chased off all but the most uninformed traveler. So, the department turned to the locals. The record for tickets was one poor old lady that got six tickets in 1 hour 45 minutes for have a trailer hitch blocking part of her license plate.

One man had finally been harassed beyond all tolerance. Cop pulled him over and did the usual extortion. Guy beat the crap out of him. Did they same to another cop that showed up.

He was indicted for assaulting a police officer. The DA was going to make a example of him and empaneled a DA's dream jury. All retired school teachers and ex-military. The jury deliberated for 10 minutes and aquitted. The DA said that this was embarrassing. Then the DA's junior high civics teacher came down from the jury stand. The woman that had inspired him to go into law.

She walked across the room. Walked up to the defendant and gave him a firm "at a boy". The DA was crushed.

Any way. California is hopeless. There is no redemption. The system is broken and no one cares that it is broken. You just threw out one governor for fiscal irresponsiblity and replaced him with a guy who borrowed (what was it $18 billion) then borrowed another $10 billion for stem cell research and is still loosing $8 billion a year. And everyone thinks this is a big improvement.

You are right California (my native state) is the land of Kafka. You have two choices. Stay there and document the insanity and probably go insane yourself. Or leave and find some sanity. I am not a writer and chose the second. For a writer the first might be more appealling. But however well you document the insanity; sooner or later it will overtake you.

First you will notice that you fail to notice some of the insanity. Then you will accept it. Then you will embrass it. I am not talking about the qwerks. I am from San Fransisco and always loved all the weirdness from the SF hippies, to the central valley red necks. But now the insanity is meaner. It is not an expression of individuality, or the embrass of non-standard community values. There is a meaness to it. An intolerance. An anger that was never there before.

Best of luck.

About a two and a half years ago, I had the EXACT same thing happen to me. I was told, under no uncertain terms, that I was to call back "at least once a week" until the ticket showed up.

I talked to several officers for some time. When I requested it, she gave me some sort of "tracking number" (I think that's what she called it) so I could at least prove that I had tried to pay. With future calls I could get more "tracking numbers". Then, eventually, I'd have to run in and pay - just as you were told.

I called back twice, got no further, and frankly just dismissed it because I'm lazy. It's been two years now and nothing ever came of it.

While I wouldn't suggest by any means ignoring the ticket, I would say that the LAPD must have a pretty serious paper trail going through it and that there must be some sort of "release valve" where tickets that are a headache logisitically (for whatever reason) get dumped because the workload isn't worth the payout. When I say dumped, I mean erased/ignored.

This may be wishful thinking, and I may soon be arrested for my failure to pay my ticket. Best of luck.

Hey, I have a similar story, set in texas though. One night i was driving home and got pulled over because one of my lights was out. then i stopped, took off my seatbelt and got out my registration, and the cop decided to write me a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt, guess he needed to meet his quota or something. so i went to court to contest it, and as soon as i got there they said "impossible address, case dismissed". apparently the cop had written a specific address instead of "the 4500 block of whatever street".

so my situation was the cop had messed up the ticket, so they couldn't do anything about it, and it was dismissed. as far as not writing the date in, i don't know, but i don't think they can go back and write the date in late. just my experience and opinion.

This sounds like a serious problem. If it doesn't get rectified soon I would call the local TV studio and have them to a story on it. That should get the City's Attention. But, before that, I would be calling the Boss of whoever you talked to and call the district attorney's office. They should be able to help some.

Get it thrown out ... civic-ally, I know this is wrong and I applaud the fact of you and your wife's honesty and being responsible for your actions (applause here).

BUT- On the other hand I am a big stickler for 'attention to detail' which the officer did not do. And I think that your wife should not be at the will of the "system" due to this ... and she should not be at risk either.

Please post updates on this as I would like to know what transpires.

Good luck

Upgrade to Wife 2.0.

...just kidding.

In situations like this, it's best to go direct to the city council, the mayor, or both. The bureaucrats work for them, after all. If there's no action from them, threaten to go to local TV.

I strongly suggest you contact the clerk of courts in the municipality that is indicated on the infraction. If the clerk has no record of the offense, go about your merry lives. If they do, ask for a court date. When you show up, ask the magistrate/judge to have the traffic complaint dismissed on the grounds that the ticket does not contain accurate information. If there is no accurate date on the infraction, and the original cannot be located, they have no evidence, and therefore no case. You do not need an attorney for this type of procedure, and it will likely be resolved expeditiously. Another suggestion would be to directly contact the prosecutor, and tell them you want to avoid court, and know the case would be dismissed (point out the inaccuracies), and ask that the charges be dropped. This may be more straightforward in some cases.

Should you need to go to court, some municipal courts have a two-tiered system for minor infractions such as these - You generally first see a judge, mayor or magistrate and enter an initial plea of "guilty", "no contest", or "innocent". If you wish to pay the fine (I strongly suggest do not!!), plead "no contest" - This ensures the infraction cannot be used against you in the future by your insurance company or other agent. If you wish to have this dismissed, plead "innocent" - usually they will set a second court date, where your case will be heard by a jury and real judge. The prosecutor will need to subpoena the officer that issued the ticket to testify as the reasons you were given the ticket. 9 times out of 10, the officer does not show on the court date, leading to an automatic dismissal. This is because most officers are not paid overtime to show up in court. There is no incentive or punishment if they're a no-show, so they generally don't. If by chance the officer does, before the case gets underway, make a motion to dismiss based on the inaccuracy of the ticket. If this is not granted, the trial moves forward, and you will get to question the accuracy of the ticket (in particular, the lack of date on the ticket), which should lead to a dismissal. You would want to question the accuracy of the officer's memory if the facts are not documented properly on the infraction. On the odd chance you ARE found guilty, you will be generally fined for the infraction plus court costs. Ironically, these costs are already built into the ticket you were planning to pay, so many times, the costs after going to court are either slightly less, or the same as if you had just paid the fine upfront. While this sounds scary, long, and tricky, it's not. The whole process should take less than a day or two, and if you have your wits about you, you can observe what's going on with the other unlucky souls that will be there too, and how the process works. If your story is accurate, it is well worth your time to investigate further. I wish I had something this blatant to get some past cases dismissed - You're kind of lucky in a way.

Good luck,

An (unfortunate) veteran of minor traffic violations

Would talking with the officer who wrote her the ticket help? Or is the ticket out of his hands and sitting on a pile on someone's desk now?

Would telling them "she received the ticket on XX November 2004" help at all?

A snarky way to get a quick resolution would be to take this story to one of the local TV stations. Let *them* expose the bureaucratic quagmire... someone'll listen.

It's unfortunate that they've got someone who WANTS to pay their ticket and can't. Too often it's the other way 'round.

Good luck with that!

I read your blog. Really interesting. That goes to show how the system can really screw you over. If I were you I'd hire a lawyer and explain the situation early on. Hope that helps.

I would suggest calling the LAPD (non-emergency number obviously) and see if they can do anything to enter the ticket into the database. If it was the state highway patrol is who pulled you over then call them. I have not gotten a moving violation here in LA (of course I have gotten parking tickets, who hasn't) but I would think there might be some info identifying the police officer that pulled your wife over, like his badge number, which might help them get him to enter the correct information. They might at least be able to make a note on your wife's DMV info regarding the ticket so that when it is finally entered a warrant is not issued for your wife.

She could choose also choose to challenge the ticket. I don't know the laws on this one, but I believe they give you a particular date to show up to traffic court. If she shows up, she could just plead no contest to the violation, pay the fine there at court and likely sign up for traffic court at the same time.

don't know if it helps, but out in vermont the police write their names on the ticket and you can call up the police barracks where he's posted (a couple of calls to the police phone board might help) and speak to him directly to try and sort it out.

boing boing looks great. the design looks much cleaner and streamlined. did the little girl in the header used to jiggle with the jackhammer? if it did, i liked that. if it didn't, i drink too much .

re : your wife's ticket. i got a ticket recently here and if i remember correctly, they send you a notice before you have to go to court/pay it. actually, if you actually did go to court the chances are the judge would dismiss charges due to the cop's mistake. as for the "next day" line they give you, i discovered it's not really that urgent. i went 3 days later and was fine.

good luck with it though.

I know this may not be very helpful, but it's worth a try: Call the ticket office every 15 minutes, explain the situation, and ask how to get it resolved right away. It might take all day, but I be it'll be fixed. You know what they say about squeaky wheels. Good luck. Let us know how it turns out.

I suggest contacting the officer who wrote the ticket directly - his name and probably badge number should be on the citation. Just call the police station or precinct where she got the ticket and ask to speak to the officer. Explain the situation and ask for his help. Chances are he's lost or destroyed the original citation that goes into their system and he'll probably tell her to forget it. Alternately, if he still has it but hasn't logged it he'll, he can either log it in or he might decide to destroy it. If name isn't legible, take the citation to the police station and ask the receptionist - they'll probably be able to help you.

Perhaps there is something here that can help you.


I'm not sure if this is of much help, but I used to sell something called Prepaid Legal Services, and for a small monthly fee you have unlimited telephone consultations with an attorney from a firm with a top rating.

I don't sell it any more, because I really don't like the sales gig. Just saying that so you know I'm not trying to make a buck. But I found the service very useful for traffic tickets and other information. If you do a search for Prepaid Legal Services, you could get more info. I'm pretty sure that this kind of error on the ticket could get the whole thing negated.

I think the plan is just sixteen bucks a month, and you could cancel it after one month if you just wanted to get the consultation (they allow pre-existing conditions for the consultation in the plan).

Hope this can be of help.