Q: I am being approached by a collection agency that appears to buy old moving violation tickets in DC and Maryland
I noticed the calls are coming a little more frequent and the last call I got the rep started being more aggressive in her eluding to taking further steps of action if I don't pay these so-called outstanding tickets? The approach I took with them is I am not paying tickets dating back 6 years plus. I want to know if there is a Statue of Limitation on old moving violation tickets? What are some action steps I may be able to utilize to my advantage in order to fight old tickets. I informed the collection agency I only deal with the state government that issue these tickets? I paid off a bunch of tickets recently and the tickets the collection agency is bringing up wasn't requested by these State govts? How can I safeguard myself. 1) Can they sue me 2) Can they put something on my credit report? 3) Can they levy my bank account? What are my rights? 4) Can I tell them to send me the list of tickets and challenge each one in court or send letters? I would appreciate some advice on this.
A: Generally speaking, fines and penalties do not have statutes of limitations. In the case of moving violations, nonpayment results in suspension of your driving privileges in the jurisdiction where the unpaid ticket was issued, and then upon notification to the state that issued your license (if different) that state will also suspend you under the reciprocity statute, thereby preventing you from driving legally anywhere. You can obtain a list of unpaid tickets by requesting your driving record from the state you have a license from, which will show each unpaid ticket in or out of state that is causing a suspension or other adverse consequence to your license. Usually such fines are not referred to private collections, but it is possible non-moving violations may be. Such fines generally are too small to justify hiring a lawyer to sue you in court, and the only way to garnish bank accounts or wages is to sue you and obtain a judgment, and you would have to be served with a copy of the complaint and summons first. I do not know how a private company would be able to prove the violation if you denied committing it, as there is no way they could get the officer to appear and testify. However, I suppose it is possible that certain violations are deemed admitted by law after you fail to pay within a certain time frame, like parking tickets. But that is not true for moving violations. Non moving violations involving vehicles (parking, insurance, registration, tags, etc.) generally result in suspension of registration and prevent tag renewal or resale to another party without satisfying the fines. Therefore, I am somewhat skeptical that a state has turned over their unpaid traffic fines to private collection, both because they have other, better penalties to compel payment (suspension of license and registration) and the general low dollar amounts and proof requirements involved in suing to collect. If, however, these fines are court-imposed after having been found guilty in court, and are large enough to interest a debt collector, then it is true that states, such as Maryland’s Central Collection Unit, will sometimes turn over unsatisfied Court adjudicated fines to collection. In such cases, the fines are reduced to judgment and no further proof in court is required to establish the judgment amount. It isn’t unclear what your circumstances are based on your post. You do have a right to request the account/supporting documentation that identifies the amount, nature and date the date was incurred.
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