Thousands of Baltimore residents lined up to pay old parking tickets in the first day of a two-day amnesty program that forgives late fees that can swell $20 fines into four-digit debts, the Baltimore Sun says. By paying the face value of the tickets, and giving up the better part of a day, parking-ticket scofflaws could clear their debts.
One man got a $20 ticket five years ago and watched the penalty climb to $877. A woman collected 10 $20 tickets but never paid. With late fees, she owed a whopping $4,148. Yesterday, she paid $200 and was done with it.
Nearly 200,000 people owed the city $113 million in overdue parking tickets. If they all took advantage of the amnesty, the city would collect $14.6 million. People were allowed to pay at money-order outlets and through the mail as well as at a public building. The law said another amnesty would not be offered for at least 10 years.
The Sun says Baltimore is one of the few cities to escalating penalties endlessly for late parking tickets. An unpaid $20 ticket can quickly grow to hundreds of dollars. Those with overdue tickets are not allowed to renew their car registrations. But some buy new vehicles, drive unregistered cars, or otherwise slip through the cracks.
The city issues 350,000 to 400,000 parking tickets a year, collecting about $8.7 million in fines and $8 million in late fees. Many paid paying tickets they believed had been erroneously issued. When the late fees started mounting, they couldn’t afford to pay. One man said he was one the way to feed a meter when a meter maid “wouldn’t let me put money in the meter.” His $20 ticket grew to $600.