To the surprise of Charlie Singleton, news that a parking ticket had been following him for just shy of a quarter century arrived at his Tucson home a few weeks back.
Around midnight on May 7, 1992, an officer wrote that ticket — now worth $101.50 — and left it on a vehicle brazenly parked in front of a sign that said, in no uncertain terms, that parking was not allowed there, according to the original ticket and a court official.
But Singleton, who had gotten married just a few days prior, says that he and his wife were on their honeymoon enjoying themselves roughly 3,000 miles away in Hawaii that evening, a timeline he ran by his then-newlywed wife. County marriage records support the story.
“She has a better memory than me,” he said with a laugh.
The northwest Tucson intersection where somebody illegally parked — Camino Martin and Jeremy Place — was near a country Western bar that Singleton had gone to a few times, but other than that he could think of no reason that he would have been in the area.
In a final twist, his month of birth was listed as November 1911, making him just shy of 105 years old. Singleton is, in fact, in his 50s.
Singleton told the Road Runner that he’s not looking to avoid responsibility, and has gotten other tickets in the past and paid them promptly. What he’s looking for is a chance to argue his case, a chance he’s likely to get, according to a court official.
“I guess if there was a legitimate reason that I received a ticket while I was in Hawaii, then prove it and I’ll pay my dues,” he said.
So, what’s the story of this strange parking ticket? The Road Runner spoke with city and county court administrators to find out.
Doug Kooi, administrator of the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court, where Singleton’s case was filed, did not try to dispute Singleton’s account, but made an important point about parking violations that doesn’t necessarily apply to other civil traffic violations.
“The citation was left on the car. He could have been anywhere in the world. It’s where the car was,” Kooi said, adding that those citations stay on the books until “the court learns (the owner is) deceased or the person pays it.”
As stated in county ordinance, “The person in whose name such vehicle is registered is prima facie responsible for such violation and subject to the penalty thereof.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter who parked there; all that matters is whom the car is registered to, even if they’re in Hawaii. The fact that nobody was in the vehicle when the citation was issued also explains the wildly inaccurate birth month attributed to Singleton in court records. Kooi said that when older record systems were in use, they automatically filled in blank dates-of-birth with 1s, thus 11/11/1911.
As for the car, a 1982 maroon four-door Subaru, Singleton said that he had indeed once owned it. However, he said that he sold that car around the time he picked up a Ford Expedition in 1991.
Now he’s now on the hunt for a paper trail to prove that he had sold the vehicle and someone else did not take the required steps to register it. As to his chances before the judge who’ll hear his case, Kooi said that such appeals are “a pretty mixed bag.”
“The judges listen for those extenuating circumstances and rule (on) each one,” he added. “Judges often tell me that cases like this come in groups of one. Everyone is individual.”
But what about the most interesting thing about this case: the extraordinarily long time it took for his ticket to find him?
Kooi said that such delays are often due to drivers not updating their addresses with the state Department of Motor Vehicles when they move, meaning that notices bounce back to the court or collection agencies. The Road Runner will confess he has not always updated addresses in the most timely fashion, but Singleton said that he’s tried to do a good job of that.
The exact reason(s) for the long delay is difficult to discern. What we do know is that it was the state’s Fines, Fees and Restitution Enforcement (FARE) program that eventually tracked him down, less than two months after receiving the case from the county’s previous contractor Valley Collections, which had had the ticket for more than 3½ years.
Kooi said his court “had a very good relationship” with Valley, and dropped them over the summer because of a mandated move to FARE. That program dates back to 2003 and helps state courts with outstanding fines, fees and restitution payments in civil, criminal and traffic matters, including unpaid parking tickets.
However, Chris Hale, Tucson City Court administrator, said his office has had much better luck with FARE than the collection contractors it used before 2003, when the court became among the first FARE participants.
With previous contractors, Hale estimated that collection rates were sometimes less than 10 percent. But between fiscal year 2004 and FY 2014, the most recent full year included in data he provided, Hale’s court turned over roughly a quarter million dollars in outstanding fines, fees and to FARE, which collected nearly $70 million. Some years they’ve successfully tracked down more than half of outstanding payments.
Hale also said that unpaid fines can spiral out of control and lead to larger consequences, one of the reasons he said people should not ignore them.
“You have to deal with it because it’s not going to go away,” he added.
Singleton certainly isn’t ignoring his fine anymore, but he’s got a different challenge than many others.
“How do I prove that they’re wrong?” he asked.
DOWN THE ROAD
The section of Pima Mine Road that passes under Interstate 19 will be closed Wednesday and Thursday while the Community Water Co. of Green Valley carries out paving work, according to a release from the Arizona Department of Transportation. Ramps to and from the road (Exit 80) will also be closed during work hours between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Message boards will direct interstate drivers to alternate exits.
There will also be work on Interstate 10 this week, with overnight lane closures planned at I-10’s bridges over Craycroft Road. Left lanes in both directions will be closed between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.
Dates and times for two additional city of Tucson crack and fog seal projects are also out. Crews were to work overnight on the Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon road intersection, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
On Wednesday, crews will start work on Craycroft Road between the Rillito River Bridge and Glenn Street with the same overnight shifts. At least one lane of travel in all directions will remain open during the work.