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Lafayette Files Suit Against Nonpaying Traffic Violators

woman with parking ticket
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Lafayette Consolidated Government has begun filing suit against traffic violators who have unpaid parking or traffic-camera citations, but those suits are on hold until the laws surrounding those citations’ governance is clarified.

There was confusion among the Lafayette City-Parish Council at its April 29 meeting about the statute of limitations surrounding unpaid tickets. City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert said it’s 10 years, but District 9 Council Member William Theriot said the council stated publicly it’s three years.

“We need to clarify to make certain what it is that we’re telling our individuals,” said Theriot.

"We deliberately picked the larger violations. Some are persons and some are businesses."

It’s likely the council will consider amending the ordinance surrounding the traffic tickets at its next meeting on May 6.

Hebert said the debts owed in the lawsuits range anywhere from $1,700 to $13,000, or more. One $46,000 debt will be tackled in state district court.

“We decided only to file a few at first and let them work their way through the court system,” said Hebert, noting he had concerns about overwhelming the courts. ”We deliberately picked the larger violations. Some are persons and some are businesses.”

Around 40 or 50 lawyers are working on the suits on a volunteer basis, according to Hebert. The attorneys will only receive payment if the lawsuits recover money.

“The idea is that LCG would not have to pay lawyers up front on a routine basis for pursuing these lawsuits,” Hebert said.

As of May 2013, there were more than 11,900 unpaid parking tickets, said District 9 Council Member William Theriot, and the city is trying to recover more than $3 million in unpaid traffic-camera violations.

Suits will only be filed against SafeSpeed/SafeLight violators who owe more than $125.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council approved an amnesty period last May that gave SafeSpeed/SafeLight violators a chance to pay the fines with no penalty until June 30. RedFlex Traffic Systems owns the cameras and estimates about $325,000 from the previously unpaid citations was recovered.

“Everybody got to take advantage of the amnesty period,” said RedFlex account manager Lee Buckels, including those who maintained an unpaid balance of only late fees.

Hebert said last summer he was set to begin filing suit against nonpaying violators, but no action was taken because of the magnitude of processing so many violations.

“The logistical issues with SafeLight/SafeSpeed were pretty easily resolved, because we were able to have access to a database that was maintained by our contractor, RedFlex, that catalogues all those violations in a fairly management format,” Hebert said.

The statute of limitations on the citations is currently 10 years, said Hebert.

Lafayette had brought in about $6.8 million in collections from SafeLight/SafeSpeed violators in December 2012, according to an April 9 report from The Daily Advertiser. Sixty percent of the revenues go to the city, while the remaining 40 percent goes to RedFlex.

The same division remains in place for those funds collected through the suits.

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