Regulation redux? Louisiana turns back the clock on 20-year-old fines

| 12/30/2008

Scott Ward’s jaw dropped when he saw his mail that day.

Ward, a long-hauler and Land Line reader from Cataula, GA, said he received a letter from the Louisiana Attorney General Office’s Collections team in late September saying he had unpaid citations from the Louisiana State Police Motor Carrier Safety Unit.

The state told Ward the unpaid citations were from inspections performed in September 2001 and March 2002. However, Ward told Land Line he believed the 2001 and 2002 inspections included only warnings, and not citations. A separate citation issued in 2006 was paid that same year.

The state of Louisiana is collecting on old traffic violations, including many safety violations stemming from commercial vehicle inspections in the Bayou State that date as far back as 1988.

“In September 2007, the Motor Carrier Safety Section of the Office of State Police placed with the Louisiana Department of Justice – collections section, outstanding fines for many types of violations, which may include but are not limited to safety violations,” said Ginger Eppes, section chief for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, who responded to some Land Line questions by e-mail. “Some of these fines may go as far back as 1988.”

Eppes declined to answer additional questions, suggesting they be forwarded to state police.

Markus Smith, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police, said his agency was not aware of the Louisiana attorney general’s new collection pursuance of old fines. Smith said he doubted the state would be collecting on 85,000 old citations, as Ward claims he was told.

“It doesn’t sound correct to me,” Smith told Land Line. “Unpaid citations are handled by the parishes. Each (county) government handles their own ticket collection.”

Ward paid Louisiana nearly $300 to make the citations go away, citing his need to cut through Louisiana on his way back to Georgia without having potential warrants for his arrest.

Smith said if the state is collecting old fines, the state attorney general’s office may find it difficult to collect tens of thousands of tickets on its own.

“If you’ve got 85,000 outstanding tickets, how is the AG’s office going to be able to do that?”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer