The New Jersey shore town of Sea Isle City, in an effort to balance its budget, is attempting to collect on decades old unpaid traffic violations. Since it is a summer vacation destination many of the offenders live far away and have long forgotten they ever received a ticket.
New Jersey has a five-year statute of limitations on most felonies, apart from murder or manslaughter. In most cases, prosecutors must file charges against a suspect within a year of a misdemeanor.But when it comes to traffic violations there is no statute of limitations on unpaid tickets. It stays open until it’s disposed of.
The Atlantic City Press recently ran a story on one such case;
Robert Cochran, 53, recently got a letter from Sea Isle City Municipal Court at his home near Knoxville, Tenn. The postmark puzzled him because he had not been to Sea Isle in more than 17 years. When he opened it this month, the tax consultant found a big surprise.
“Please be aware that a warrant has been issued for your arrest for an unanswered summons. To avoid embarrassment or your impending arrest, please report to the Police Department immediately to post a bond. You’ll be notified of your court date,” the letter read.
The summons was from an unpaid traffic ticket that was written Aug. 23, 1991, the summer he shared a home in Sea Isle City with some friends from New York.
Cochran said he assumed the city, like others in cash-strapped New Jersey, was resurrecting old cases to wring more money out of tourists during a budget crisis.
“If they know Sea Isle City will track them down 50 years from now for unpaid parking tickets, it makes the city look like fools,” he said. “All it’s doing is giving the state bad publicity.”
So will Cochran own up to his long-forgotten transgression and pay the $66 fine?
“Pay it? No,” he said. “It would be one thing to pay it a year later. But 20 years later? Give me a break.”