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N.Y., L.A. Tougher on Ticket Scofflaws, Believe It or Not

By Mike Brockway | March 31, 2015 5:44am
 The Denver boot.
The Denver boot.
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CHICAGO — Chicagoans may think the city is tough when it comes to cracking down on motorists who don't pay their parking and camera tickets.

The truth is, other cities are even tougher.

And it may be because of these more aggressive policies that other major U.S. cities like New York and Los Angeles are collecting more of their debt compared to Chicago.

All three cities employ the dreaded Denver boot to immobilize the vehicles of drivers who don't pay their ticket debt fast enough.

Los Angeles allows drivers to have as many as five unpaid tickets before the boot can be attached or the vehicle is towed and impounded.

Chicago has a lower threshold, but the timeline is longer than in New York.

Drivers here can be booted for as few as two unpaid parking, red-light or speed-camera tickets in Final Determination status over 12 months old or three unpaid tickets in Final Determination status to put a vehicle on the boot list.

Vehicles can be booted if the owner has three unpaid tickets in final determination status as soon as the ticket enters this status. While theoretically this process could take as little as 84 days, normally it could take the better part of a year before a vehicle gets on the boot list.

Final determination means the ticket is unpaid, and the city has ruled the vehicle owner is liable for the fine. The owner either contested the violation and was found liable during a hearing, or the owner ignored the ticket for too long, and the city ruled the owner liable. At this point the ticket cannot be contested, and the fine has doubled.

Things happen much faster in the Big Apple.

Once a New York driver has over $350 worth of tickets and late fees, their car can be booted or towed after just 100 days from the date the tickets were issued.

All three cities insist on getting paid on all outstanding ticket debt and an additional boot fee until the vehicle can be released.

However, Chicago will allow drivers with booted vehicles to commit to a payment plan and still get their car released.

Chicago has the lowest boot fee of the three cities at just $60, while Los Angeles charges $125 and New York charges $159 for the boot and a $80 sheriff’s execution fee for a total of $239.

Surprisingly however, New York is less punative for drivers who pay their tickets late.

According to the city's Department of Finance spokeswoman Sonia Alleyne, tickets in New York must be paid in 30 days. If not, the city adds a $10 late fee. After 45 days it goes up another $20 and over 60 days, a $30 late fee is tacked on for a grand total of 60 bucks.

But if you don't pay your Chicago tickets on time, within 21 days of being issued, your ticket will double, making that expensive ticket even more difficult to pay off. Tickets range from $50 to $500, with most on the lower end of the spectrum.

Los Angeles is more aggressive than both New York and Chicago. Fines are doubled after just 14 days from the date a violation notice is mailed and another $25 is tacked on if the ticket is not paid after 58 days, according to that city's municipal code.

Perhaps Los Angeles' best weapon for collecting unpaid tickets is a California law that allows the California Department of Motor Vehicles to get the money on behalf of municipalities when a motorist renews a vehicle's registration every year.

One thing all three have in common is the use of collection agencies: all have outside agencies to try convince scofflaws to pay up.

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