By on May 17, 2011

Most Americans depend heavily on their license to drive – for their jobs, their family obligations and their recreational travel.

Naturally, some of our driving needs take us out of state. And as is well-known, traffic enforcement tends to focus on out-of-state drivers – maybe because it is that much harder for drivers to successfully contest out-of-state tickets…?

Compounding this problem is the fact that out-of-state violations almost inevitably impact the home-state driver’s license, sometimes even resulting in suspensions. And if out-of-state tickets are hard to contest, then clearing up interstate licensing actions can be nearly impossible.

In the nanny state’s never-ending battle to completely eliminate all driving risk, and its corresponding effort to make sure that every bit of your traffic record is available to every enforcement agency in the land, several compacts have been set up between the states for the sharing of motorists’ driving offense information.

This might be a good thing, if all transportation departments had fair, clear, and consistent rules and procedures for how out-of-state violations should impact home-state license privileges – and those agencies took responsibility for treating motorists fairly when problems arise.

The reality, though, is that such situations lead to vicious circles where neither the bureaucracy of the ticketing state nor the home state is willing to step up and unilaterally correct problems.

There are many such cases. Here is an article on Jeremy Murray’s struggle to clear up an Indiana suspension based on a New Mexico ticket that he had actually already paid.

These cases are even more unfair and difficult to resolve when they are based on age-old tickets that cash-strapped jurisdictions now suddenly decide should be pursued.

One NMA member reports being denied a license renewal based on a 17-year-old ticket, which, like Murray’s, had already been paid. Can you imagine being required to provide proof of payment for a ticket from 17 years ago…?

Resurrection of ancient ticket prosecutions is a country-wide phenomenon; Pennsylvanian Matthew Petika, for example, is facing jail based on a 19-year-old speeding ticket.

John Jeffords of South Carolina was hounded over a 26-year-old ticket, which also had been paid. Unpaid tickets are also being referred to collection agencies, and threats of jail are being issued as well.

The nearly universal sharing of traffic violation information among the states, in combination with absurdly retroactive enforcement efforts and arbitrary, rigid schemes for license points and suspensions, overseen by pass-the-buck bureaucracies, has created nightmares for many interstate motorists.

The government’s mindset seems to be that there should be more and more resources poured into new laws, punishment schemes and enforcement techniques, but no corresponding efforts to insure accountability when ticket issues get out of control.

[Courtesy:The National Motorists Association]

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16 Comments on “Out-of-State Violations: Do The Laws Protect Or Impede Motorist?...”

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Then there are the inevitable bureaucratic record-keeping screw-ups. A couple of years ago, when my wife tried to rent a car, the rental agency ran her driver’s license through a shared database that these agencies used, and it turned up revoked (news to her, of course). Somehow, a speed trap ticket that she had collected (and immediately paid) while driving through some hick town in Arizona on the way to Los Angeles ended up being reported to DC as unpaid, and then the DC records further reflected that my wife’s license had been revoked as a result. Of course, we knew about none of this. At least the folks in the Arizona town were helpful in faxing to my wife records showing that she paid the ticket, when she then had to take, in person, to the intrepid DC Department of Motor Vehicles to get the records there corrected.

    Your tax dollars at work.

    • 0 avatar

      I got a letter from Burlington, Vermont several years ago wanting several hundred dollars for unpaid tickets. Since I had never been to that fine city, I sent a letter back stating this fact. They in return sent me copies of parking tickets to a car that I had sold before and said it was my responsibility to pay the tickets or prove that I didn’t own the car. Luckily I had made a copy of the front and back of the title,signed over to the new owner and a copy of the bill of sale and sent it to them. I may still be wanted in that town as I never heard anything. The funny thing is I kept the old plates when I sold the car, I still can’t figure how they found me.

  • avatar

    My last speeding ticket was over 12 years ago in up-state NY driving a rental car (I have a CO license). I hired a lawyer from Albany to represent me — he got it reduced to a no-point ticket. I hate paying lawyers, but hate paying cities and states for tickets even more. I made sure he gave me the court report on the resolution of the ticket.

    After reading these stories, it look like we need to check our drivers license records once a year after getting a violation. A bit like checking your credit report.

  • avatar

    Since “sharing” of data will inevitably occur, it makes sense to standardize the way it is done. Another obvious requirement is a statute of limitations.

    I once received a parking ticket (deserved) in DC. Ever eager for the twofer, the agent who wrote the ticket docked me an extra $50 for not having a front license plate mounted on my car. Granted, my state does require a front license plate, but that requirement is made by VA, not by DC. I wonder what would have happened if I were from West Virginia or one of the other states that does not require a front tag.

  • avatar
    The Wedding DJ

    You don’t even have to leave your home state. I happen to know that another Michigan resident with the same name as mine was arrested for DUI in Indiana in 1994, and was apparently a habitual offender. You guessed it, they wanted to have Michigan pull my license, even though the only time I had ever driven in Indiana was in ’93 and I received no tickets. Fortunately, all it took was letters to both states to clear it up. I’ve heard stories from people in similar situations that weren’t resolved so neatly.

  • avatar

    Worst? I would be willing to bet most of these violations were for “speeding” in an area where the limits are already set too low and the patrol is out only for revenue generation, out of state drivers even better.

    Our speed limits need to be adjusted to avoid this stuff. 65 in rural Illinois is ridiculous. As is 75mph in BFE Montana.

    Why must politicians feel like the solution to everything is some new law? Sometimes we have to just accept that life is better without so many rules, even if it means that sometimes there are some downsides too.

    Would be nice if states also decided to be a bit more independent and not get involved in these things. Kinda like it would be nice if politicians would actually have some backbone and do their constitutional duties rather than accept the games so they can do the same when “their party” is in power.

    I’m getting really tired of America, honestly. I can’t take how we keep asking and accepting more centralized meddling in our lives, in our wallets, and accepting that government knows what’s best for us. Its getting noticeably worse. I didn’t feel anywhere close to this way 10 years ago….

  • avatar

    If this is a bunch of state compacts, how much can you blame the federal government for this, assuming that’s the intent of the ‘nanny state’ dig? If anything it sounds like a lack of a consistent standard is the problem; something where a federal standard may help (along with, say TPMS; ‘stifling innovation’ be damned).

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    This could not be more timely for me.

    I recently went in to renew my Virginia driver’s license. I have not gotten a ticket in well over 10 years, so I’m thinking its not going to be any big deal. WRONG.

    Even thought I have renewed my VA license before, I was informed that Missouri has a hold on my license. So I call them, and they tell me that they do indeed have a hold, for a ticket I may have received in Mississippi. I haven’t had a driver’s license from Missouri for nearly 20 years, so I was surprised, to say the least.

    I call down to BumbleFu&K Mississippi and I am informed that yes, there is a ticket from 24 YEARS AGO. If I had killed someone I would have been out of jail in that amount of time. I could, of course, come down from northern Virginia to fight it (at their time and place, of course)…

    Needless to say, because I have to drive to work, I paid the legalized extortion that would put a loanshark to shame. Then, to add insult to injury, I have to pay Missouri $20 before they will reinstate my license, even though, of course, I don’t have a Missouri permit and haven’t for two decades.

    The fact that the states are allowed to get away with this is nothing short of astounding. And they wonder why the majority of Americans have lost faith in their local governments.

  • avatar

    I got caught up by this sort of nonsense years ago. Basically I got a speeding ticket in Maryland in ’95 or so. I moved home to Louisiana and obtained a driver’s license. 4 years later when it was time to renew, I learned that my license had been suspended because they had just found out about the speeding ticket in Maryland 5 years earlier. Bizarre.

  • avatar

    I had a North Carolina license and had to pay NC for a ticket I got in South Carolina. I sent the fine amount to SC, then received a notice from NC that I was being fined for getting an out of state ticket. This was 15 years ago, don’t know if NC still runs this scam.

  • avatar
    George B

    Beating on a dead horse, but these problems would largely disappear if punishment for traffic law violation and revenue generation were decoupled. If the fines were donated to charity, the government would have a different approach to public safety.

    Got a speeding ticket in rural Landcaster, Ohio. They claim 79mph in a 65mph zone. I only saw 74mph on the speedometer before braking. Same fine/revenue either way, but a lower speed on the record potentially saves me money on insurance. The only people who would take my calls were the people collecting the fines. Boycott this town and Valley View, TX too!

  • avatar

    This out of state enforcement can be annoying and terribly expensive. And while I’m no fan of the feds, this crap cries out for regulating actions between states.

    These are traffic and parking VIOLATIONS, not rape and murder. Congress should tell these State Motor Vehicle clowns that violations not collected within 5 years are void.

    • 0 avatar

      I suppose Congress could invoke that old roundheels the Commerce Clause, but I’d rather they didn’t. This is a state issue, not a Federal issue. If you don’t like it, vote the state lawmakers out if they won’t respond. Of course, this would have to be reciprocal.

  • avatar

    Many moons ago I was flying through the vast emptiness of Wyoming, and before I could even touch the brakes I was caught coming around a curve. Back then, as long as you had a cashiers check mailed in within seven days no one knew about it. Not your home state or your insurance. Just a, “thank you for visiting.”

  • avatar

    They really don’t care, they just want the revenue missing from sales and income tax receipts (that’s how they refer to the theft of your economic output) and besides they know it’s easier for you to pay a few hundred bucks than spend time and lawyers fees fighting it, only to lose and pay anyway.

    Consider any ticket to be a boomerang and prepare to pay it twice. Keep all paperwork from the ticket until your death and make sure your family has the forms. I would not be at all surprised if they start coming after estates next.

  • avatar

    A few good men and women are needed again, still.

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