It’s been weighing on me for a while, so I thought I would relate this story.
On August 15th, I was pulled over on I-65 in Indianapolis. The police office claimed I was speeding, but would not tell me how fast I was going. I was following traffic, and was not in the fast lane.
“I’m going to write you up because I could not read your license plate.”
I was surprised by this. I have a clear plastic license plate cover that I have had for about two years. It has a cheap silver rim around the plate, then a clear plastic cover with security bolts holding everything to the car.
“Now, I’m writing you up for this because it’ll cost less than a speeding ticket. We don’t hand out ticket amounts anymore. You’ll have to check this website to find out how much you owe. It should be up in three to five weeks.”
I thanked the cop, and went home. I removed the license plate cover and examined it. Granted, it had gotten cloudy as plastic is want to do when exposed to the elements, but I could read my license plate from about forty feet away pretty easily. I shrugged, expecting the ticket to be $25 or something along those lines. A ding, but no big deal.
Boy, was I wrong.
So, after checking the site every day for a month, I figured that, like several tickets before, he wrote me one and never turned it in. I shrugged, and went on about my life.
The website has no security. If you know someone’s name and birthday, you can look up their tickets. Granted, all it shows in the amount of the ticket, but the fact that one exists may be an issue in the future. That worried me a bit, but since there was no ticket, I didn’t care. After five weeks, no ticket with that number appeared. I wrote it off.
On a lark, on my birthday (October 25th), I checked the site. The ticket was there all right, along with a $150 fine.
$150 for a cloudy cover on my license plate? Seriously? Indignant, I decided I was going to challenge it. I looked at the ticket.
No such luck. A court date has to be requested at most sixty days after the ticket was physically received, which had passed ten days before.
So, I resolved that I would pay three weeks wages at the end of the month.
Enter our wonderful off balance legal system. Apparently, when I did not respond by the 60 day mark, the court took it upon itself to fine me further ($25 late fee, in addition to a ~$40 fee for “collections”), and if I did not pay by the 15th of November, my license would be suspended.
Total bill at this point: $218.75. That’s more than any other ticket I have ever gotten. 91 in a 70 a few years back? $160. My first ticket, 40 in an unmarked school zone (again, following traffic can cost you), $125.
So, how did I find out any of this? If I wasn’t a savvy researched, I would be out of luck.
I got a message from the Indiana BWV, postmarked 10/28/2010, received on 11/1/2010, saying that my license would be suspended on November 15th. On the same day, I received a notice saying my license would not be suspended. Granted, it was for another incident, but if I had not examined them both carefully, I would have written them off once again.
I had to search through court records to find out what the ticket had actually been for. Luckily, the cop had put the ticket in for “improper display of tags”.
Personally, I find it very odd that the cop would pull me over for speeding, then write me up for a cloudy license plate cover. Could it have been my Obama Biden bumper sticker (since removed due to a replaced bumper)? Who knows.
All I know is that, by Friday, I have to rustle up a month’s pay to stay legally licensed. Justice be damned in the state of Indiana. The entire ticket system is now set up to make sure you have to pay whether you are guilty or not.