By on November 5, 2009

(courtesy s.wsj.net)

California motorists hit with massive fines for minor, alleged toll infractions won a settlement last month from the Orange County Transportation Agency (OCTA) and Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA). The toll road operating entities agreed to pay $1.4 million in restitution and waive $41 million in unpaid toll penalties after admitting the fines were “excessive” and that the denial of due process to the accused was “unconstitutional.” Over a dozen motorists sued in 2007 claiming that fines of up to $123,000 for skipping tolls were outrageous. In several cases, such as that of Stephanie and Brian Young, the violations were inadvertent. The couple racked up $580 in unpaid tolls in 2003 after the credit card linked to their toll transponder account expired. For this mistake, OCTA demanded that they pay $53,550 in fines. Similarly, Maria and Pablo Gonzalez allegedly failed to pay $60.14 in tolls and were billed $78,780.

Under the settlement agreement, motorists who received a toll evasion penalty between January 1, 2003 and October 5, 2009 may be eligible for a share of the $1.4 million restitution payment and a 29 percent discount any unpaid toll penalties. The agencies also agreed to make a number of procedural changes designed to prevent future problems.

E-mail will be used to notify toll road users of problems such as low account balances and a thirty-day notice will be given before an account suspension. The agencies promise to keep accurate records. Notice of an alleged toll violation must be mailed within ten days. Alleged toll road violations will be subject to hearings that will now be conducted in a fair manner.

“The independent administrative hearing officer retained by OCTA and TCA to conduct administrative reviews will be advised that he/she should consider any fact which may tend to show that the violation was inadvertent; that the violation was the result of an innocent mistake; that multiple violations all arose from a single inadvertent cause, such as a lost, stolen, expired credit or debit or other payment card, or bank account that was canceled by the customer; that under all circumstances, the penalties imposed will cause an undue hardship for the person requesting the review; or any other circumstance which may bear on the culpability of the person seeking review or the cumulative amount of the penalties imposed,” the settlement states.

Additional details regarding the settlement may be found in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Avery v. Orange County Transportation Agency (California Superior Court, Orange County, 10/5/2009)

[courtesy thenewspaper.com]

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17 Comments on “California Toll Road: Penalties Were Unconstitutional...”


  • avatar
    kericf

    Seriously?
    a $78,800 fine for failure to pay $60 worth of tolls. WTF?

    That is a 1300% markup.

  • avatar
    jmo

    kericf,

    130,000%

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    1300% or 130,000% either way how does a 29% discount on unpaid penalties help?

    $78,800 – 29% = $55,948

    $55k+ is not pocket change.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Seriously?
    a $78,800 fine for failure to pay $60 worth of tolls. WTF?

    Orange County must have still been trying to get caught up after Robert Citron’s blunder.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    Although the final percentages have not yet been determined, it is estimated that the restitution percentage will be approximately 17% for class members assessed penalties in excess of $1,000 by the OCTA and approximately 4.437% of the entire amount paid for the class members assessed penalties in excess of $1,000 by the TCA

    3. Administrative Review of Past Violations and Penalties In addition to eligible class members receiving restitution and waivers for violations and penalties already paid, the Agreement provides that all Class Members will be entitled to seek additional restitution and waiver of assessed and unpaid toll evasion penalties pursuant to the “Administrative Review” provisions of this Agreement. This is without regard to the length of time since the violations were incurred or the penalties imposed provided that it be requested within 180 days of the Court’s final approval of this Settlement.

    OK, maybe they can get an Administrative Review but if they don’t get a favorable decision they are still on the hook for 5 figures.

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    The law is the law and they broke it and should be forced to pay up.

    Nahhh. The TCA and the OCTA should be forced to front the cost to bail out GM as a penalty.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    lol @ jacksonbart

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Maria and Pablo may need to cross the border to flee this fine. I would move to Mexico before I forked over 78K in fines.

    It would be cheaper to run red lights everyday.

  • avatar
    John B

    “The agencies promise to keep accurate records.”

    One would hope this to be a given. The Orange County Transportation Agency make the bandits that run Highway 407 across Toronto look like Mother Theresa.

  • avatar
    tech98

    a 29 percent discount any unpaid toll penalties

    So the $78,780 fine becomes a mere $55,934? WTF?

  • avatar
    ivyinvestor

    @jmo – no, kericf is correct: it’s a ~1300% increase (1312.33%, actually). Simply use a percentage delta equation.

    In any language, tho: it’s insane.

  • avatar
    Corvair

    The Illinois Tollway Authority has the same insanely high penalties for blowing off a $0.60 toll.

    Plaintiff’s counsel, you may wish to explore a branch office in the Chicago area.

  • avatar
    ivyinvestor

    Didn’t one of our contributors from Colorado also report (literal) highway robbery for toll errors there, too?

  • avatar
    Airhen

    It is amazing that this had to end up in court in the first place!

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I’m sorry but fineing people that amount of money is just greedy and EVIL. How can any firm charge such penalties? Surely if you do not pay your tolls then the company should chase you through the courts where you have to pay back what you owe plus legal fees etc… but a 1300% markup? That is insane.

  • avatar
    AdamYYZ

    In Toronto, you can’t renew your plates if you owe outstanding tolls, or tickets.

    As much as I HATE that a private company has that kind of power with the provincial government, at least your tolls can’t get out of hand.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Why did it take a court case to determine that five-figure fines for skipping tolls were ludicrous?

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