How a $30 fine became a threat of jail
My name is Andrew and I am a fugitive from the law. By the time you read this, I may well be in jail. Although I have managed to hide from the police for almost 18 months, it seems that they have finally tracked me down.
Earlier this month I received an email telling me I owed $60 in fines.
My first thought was it was a scam. I read the email again; searching for a typo, or for anything else that suggested this was an act of fraud. Nothing stood out. Rather than asking for funds to be paid to a certain bank account, they requested I get in touch with them. It seemed legitimate.
Of course, I still wasn’t completely convinced. It may still be a scam - albeit a very elaborate one - but I thought I would humour them by playing along. So, I replied.
“What is this about? I have no idea what I have incurred a fine for”. Send.
The amount of $60 was strange. Speeding tickets come in denominations of $30, $80, $120 or more. Perhaps it was a parking ticket; although I am extremely careful about where I park, and certainly had never found an infringement notice under my wiper blades.
Three days later, at 7.15am on a Saturday, I received another email. This time, it had an attachment.
The notice informed me that in December 2015, I was snapped doing 3kmh over the speed limit whilst driving through Browns Bay. This resulted in a $30 fine, which had increased to $60 in order to cover court costs.
This was the first I had heard of it.
The first thing I did was look up my bank statements from that month. Had I been on Auckland’s North Shore in early December 2015?
It turned out I had. Fair enough then. Perhaps I had indeed been screaming through one of the more affluent suburbs of Auckland’s North Shore at 53kmh. Mea culpa.
The notice included the address of a house I had sold in September 2015.
At this point, it became obvious what had happened; the ticket was sent to my old address, so I never received it.
Then, in March 2017, I sold my car and completed the transfer of ownership details via the New Zealand Transport Agency’s (NZTA) website - and this appears to be what alerted the authorities to my new address.
Oddly, I had already given the NZTA my new address twice since the ticket was issued. I renewed both my car registration and my driver’s licence in early 2016. But even though this was the third time I had provided my new address to the NZTA, only now did it result in the Ministry of Justice getting in touch.
My problem isn’t the fine itself.
As an aside, I do find it illogical, unfair and unreasonable that police allow a speeding tolerance for 10 months of the year, but not throughout December and January. The speeding tolerance exists for a reason; namely that no speedometer is 100 per cent accurate, nor should drivers be expected to be glued to their dashboard whilst they are driving.
Besides, it is incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to maintain a constant speed when driving on hilly terrain. Even if your cruise control is set to 50kmh, it will take you over and under that speed when going downhill or when it gives the engine a squirt of gas or drops down a gear in order to negotiate a steep gradient.
Also, when there is less traffic on Auckland roads (the city basically closes down over December and January), then surely it is safer to drive at 3kmh over the speed limit than it is on a wet, dark, foggy morning in July. Yet, on a wet, dark, foggy morning in July, the police won’t bat an eyelid at drivers doing 53kmh in a 50kmh zone.
It is for all of these reasons that I find the police to be illogical, unfair and unreasonable throughout December and January - and there is no evidence that such heavy-handed measures are saving lives. In fact, I believe the road toll has been trending upwards over the past five years. So, clearly, dishing out $30 fines to people driving 2-3kmh over the limit is achieving nothing other than revenue-gathering.
Having said all of that, the police give you fair warning they’re going to be illogical, unfair and unreasonable over summer, so I cannot really complain. As I said, mea culpa. So, anyone who was about to say “don’t want a ticket? Don’t speed” in the comments section, you needn’t bother.
My problem isn’t the fine, but rather the fact that the email I received also informed me that I have been summoned to appear in my district court in late April and that, should I fail to appear, a warrant will be issued for my arrest.
Are you serious?
You’re going to come and arrest me because, in 2015, I allegedly drove 3kmh over the speed limit and was sent a $30 fine, which I only found out about three days ago? And you genuinely think that this is fair, reasonable, and a good use of police time and taxpayer money?
My fine has since doubled.
I haven’t done anything deliberately underhanded. When I moved house, I had my mail redirected for 90 days. And, as far as I am aware, it is not a legal requirement to notify the NZTA when you move house. That said, I did give the NZTA my new address when I renewed my car registration and my driver’s licence - both within about 120 days of my infringement notice.
As such, I find it unreasonable that the Ministry of Justice are penalising me for daring to move house and not tell them. I haven’t been ignoring any letters, nor have I been refusing to pay my fine. I was genuinely unaware I owed anything. So why are you charging me an extra $30?
Although I am better off than many people in this country, I live in a single-income household, have four mouths to feed and I am certainly not well-paid. Now imagine if I were a pensioner or a beneficiary. $30 could mean that the kids go hungry that week, or that I can’t afford to use the heat-pump for a few nights. And why? Because – through no fault of my own – the NZTA couldn’t track me down after they had caught me doing 3kmh over the speed limit, back in 2015.
Surely I am not the only person who finds this unreasonable.
- Stuff Nation