Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Trying to give money to Los Angeles court is not so easy

I got a citation on the Blue Line train in Los Angeles. Bummer. So I felt I should make things right, pay the ticket promptly and get it over with.

Let me repeat: I wanted to give Los Angeles Superior Court money.  You'd think in this day of tight budgets that any government entity would welcome this and make it easy to pay. Think again.

I figured I would soon receive something in the mail telling me the amount of the fine and where to send the money. But more than a month passed without receiving anything. I also checked the court's online system for paying tickets, but mine did not show up.  I decided to call the court.

In this case, the particular court is Compton Court, and conveniently,  the phone number is right on the citation. I called that number and a woman answered and said, "St. Joseph's Hospital." Had I dialed the number wrong?  I started to stammer an apology when the woman said, "Do you want the Compton Court? Yeah, we always get their calls."  When your number is printed on thousands of tickets, yep, I bet you get a lot of calls.

The number she gave me was (310) 603-7177.  I called that number and I got a long recording that gave the court hours, parking information, and phone numbers for calling the civil and criminal departments, but nothing that could help me.

Digging around on the Internet, I found another number, (310) 603-7777. I dialed this and a woman answered, saying "facilities."  In fact, this was the court, and after I explained my issue, she transferred me to a man who didn't seem happy that he had to talk to a member of the public.

I gave him my citation number and, indeed, he couldn't find it in his system either.  I asked him if it seemed unusual that after 35 days the ticket wasn't in the computer. No, he said.  "They have a year to submit the ticket, and you have to keep checking back." He seemed exasperated that he had to explain it. Because, of course, it's so obvious. I said thank you. He hung up.

A month more passed and I still hadn't received anything in the mail, nor was there anything online. I went to the court.  After going through security -- take your jacket off, throw your wallet in the bin -- I got in line.  I waited about about 12 minutes before reaching the front of the line.

The woman at the counter said the same thing I'd heard on the phone. My ticket is not in the system.  "The officer has not submitted it yet."  Isn't that unusual? "No, it isn't."  Check back later, she said. "You have to check back for a year."


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