Very few things put a damper on your day quite like coming out of a building in downtown Chicago only to find a parking ticket on your windshield. Parking tickets are the stuff of nightmares in the Windy City, especially in the current era of big government spending. Annoying or not, parking tickets are part of life. Pay them and get on with your life.
Chicago has a big problem with parking violators and unpaid tickets. More than $1 million in fines are levied every single day in the city, yet Chicago is not collecting the fines anywhere near as quickly as they are being issued. Numbers from earlier this year suggest the total of unpaid tickets now stands at about $1.5 billion. By comparison, New York’s balance is roughly $756,000; Los Angeles comes in at about $285,000.
Making Payment Easy…or Not
The city sought to increase collection of parking tickets a few years ago by setting up an online system that included payment plans intended to help those who just had too much debt to pay all at once. It turns out the plan has not succeeded as intended. Numbers show that four times as many payment plans are in default as those that remain current. This leads to an obvious question among drivers: why should I pay my ticket if the city is not going to enforce its own rules?
There are two reasons to pay your parking tickets. First, it is the right thing to do. You do have the legal right to contest any parking ticket before making payment by filling out and submitting the appropriate form. But in the absence of contesting, or if you contest and lose, you have an ethical and legal obligation to pay what you owe. Second, if and when enforcement actually does catch up to you, the consequences can be pretty stiff.
Penalties for Failure to Pay
The city follows a particular process when parking tickets are issued. For example, a driver has 21 days from first issue to either pay or contest a parking ticket. A driver who fails to respond one way or the other may receive a Notice of Determination from the city outlining additional penalties that person may face if tickets are not paid or successfully contested.
Additional Notices of Determination can be entered by the city until a Final Notice is officially issued. At that point, a failure to respond could result in additional fines and charges, booting of the vehicle in question, and the eventual seizure of that vehicle if the debt is not paid. Furthermore, wages can be garnished, and a driver’s license and vehicle registration could be suspended indefinitely. In the event of a suspension, the city will send a notice to the driver informing him or her of the pending action and its imminence.
Drivers need to be aware that bankruptcy laws in Illinois were altered in 2013. The changes make it much harder to discharge parking tickets as a result of bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy will force the city to reinstate a suspended driver’s license and registration and immediately cease all wage garnishment. The city will also be forced to accept any repayment plan approved by the court in discharging the bankruptcy.
The best way to avoid trouble with parking tickets is to pay what you rightfully owe. However, if you are already struggling under a mountain of parking ticket debt, contact us for help. We will do what we can to help relieve the debt.