HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Multiple drivers on Long Island were recently shocked and baffled by traffic tickets dating back 20 years or more.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff discovered that Nassau County is trying to collect on hundreds of tickets from the 1990s after she found dozens of angry drivers earlier this week.
Gusoff has now uncovered why the old tickets are suddenly new again.
One motorist, Vicky Fradella of Levittown, told CBS2, 1010 WINS and WCBS 880 that she was shocked when she got a notice in the mail from the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Bureau demanding $170 for an uninspected vehicle she claims she knew nothing about.
Fradella, 41, said she was also flabbergasted to see the alleged violation dated back to February 1993.
“I was 19 years old, I was still in college, I was barely in college, barely out of high school,” Fradella told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “And here it is now all these years later, 22 years later this thing comes up and they say, ‘Hey, you know, you have to take care of this ticket.'”
Her husband, Joe, went to court to question the ticket this week and officials offered to dismiss it because of its age, but the couple would still have to pay a fee, Rivera reported.
“You can either give us $30 for the court fee or you can go to trial,” Joe Fradella said, adding that they have elected to go to trial.
The Fradellas believe this is another “money grab” by the county, and they were not alone.
“I received four tickets, which I don’t remember getting any of, in the year 1994,” said Edward Cohn.
Hang Ley reported never even knowing about an outstanding violation.
“I just got it in the mail; next thing I know my license is being suspended,” Ley said.
One man Gusoff spoke with paid his ticket, but others aren’t as quick to give the government the benefit of the doubt.
“There is something not right here, there is something not right. If you don’t pay a ticket, they let you know in six months your license will get suspended,” ticket recipient Jamie Selkirk said.
In fact, CBS2 has learned there are hundreds of suspension warnings being issued for tickets dating back to the 1990s. CBS2’s Gusoff approached Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano about the issue.
“I will say this — I will look into that,” Mangano said.
When asked whether the enforcement of the old tickets was a directive from the county, Mangano said it was “as far as I know, certainly not a directive from my office.”
So to get to the bottom of the pre-millennium ticket blitz, CBS2 sat down with the judge in charge of the county traffic violations agency.
“We wanted to clear up backlogs; to get the system current,” said Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations director Judge John Marks.
Marks explained the office is purging tickets from years before the agency was created. He said there is no statute of limitations, and no need for reminders.
“You got the ticket. You didn’t respond to it,” he said.
When asked why the tickets were being acted on now, Marks replied, “I guess efficiency.”
But there is a question of whether the practice is fair. Attorney Matthew Weiss, who is handling dozens of 1990s tickets, said motorists cannot possibly remember enough to defend themselves.
“I would say this is incompetence for the people were running this court many years ago back in the 90s, because obviously, they were not getting their paperwork done when they should have,” Weiss said.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles called the collection of tickets from the 1990s is unusual. Some called for change.
“As a county legislator, I’m concerned that this is an attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the hardworking people of our county,” said Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages.
The court will dismiss tickets more than 20 years old if the driver appears in court and pays a $30 fee.
Judge Marks disputed claims that the collection operation is an unfair cash grab.
“It has nothing to do with cash,” he said. “It has to do with people, and responsibility of people.”
Judge Marks said the county is not seeking to collect on tickets written before 1992, in keeping with state guidelines.