Friday, September 14, 2012

Don't Pay That Late Fee!

We previously reported that the Chief Judge of the District Court issued a decision that late fees imposed on Speed Camera, Red Light Camera, and Parking tickets violated a provision of the Maryland state constitution because they were not uniform across the state.  As such, the court was refusing to enforce late fees as of March of this year.

According to the Washington Examiner, Montgomery County and many other jurisdictions have since stopped charging late fees.  However some of the approximately 31 jurisdictions issuing photo tickets may still charging them.  So some motorists may still be getting scamera tickets with late fees attached.

Most jurisdictions have allowed no more than 30 days to pay the fine, and some allowed substantially less.  Some people have reported to us that by the time they received citations they had only one or two weeks to pay the fine.  In addition, many jurisdictions require that anyone contesting a citation do so at least 5 days before the due date.  Some jurisdictions such as Forest Heights have even taken the stand that this means they must receive the request for a hearing by 5 days before the due date, even though this is not clearly stated on the citation and many motorists would be unaware of this.

To make matters worse, citations are sent regular mail, which has no tracking capability and is NOT guaranteed to deliver in any particular period of time.  Mail is sometimes lost or delivered to the wrong address.  There are MILLIONS of thousands of photo citations being sent every year, and some are bound to not reach their destination before the due date. 

According to the state Court of Appeals, paying a citation is an admission of speeding.  Local governments have no right to claim that a motorist 'admitted speeding' merely because the citation got lost in the mail until after some arbitrary time limit.  As such it is your civic duty to insist on you right to contest a citation which arrives after the arbitrary due date which is not written into state law, or a citation which bears a late fee which the state never authorized.

We believe motorists should NOT agree to pay these late fees.  Paying an illegal fee only 'feeds the monster' and encourages local governments to engage in practices which impose other illegal penalties or on motorist, or create artificial due dates for exercising your constitutional right to contest your citation.  If you have a citation with a late fee, you should insist on your right to contest both the citation itself and the fee, and reference the statements about the unconstitutionality of late fees in the letters from the district court which we have archived HERE.