Oregon man pays $1,000 to settle ‘09 Nevada ticket
December 22, 2014
RENO — An Oregon man admits he was driving too fast on a rural highway in Nevada five years ago, but he says the state's wheels of justice turn too slow, and his wallet is a grand lighter because of it.
Robert Larsen of Eugene, Oregon says he ended up paying more than $1,000 in legal fees to settle a $500 fine and bench warrant for his arrest even though he paid the $57 speeding ticket back in 2009.
Larsen told the Reno Gazette-Journal the charges and the bench warrant were dismissed on Wednesday, but only because he'd contacted the newspaper about it and hired an attorney.
His ordeal began earlier this summer when he received a letter notifying him a warrant had been issued for his arrest, and that he owed more than $500.
Larsen said he sent a $57 cashier's check to Hawthorne District Court about three months after a Walker River Tribal police officer cited him in January 2009 for speeding just outside Hawthorne about 120 miles southeast of Reno.
He plans to file a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline alleging the court neglected substantial evidence proving he paid the ticket and attempted to bilk him out of $572.40.
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"This is willful disregard to account for court funds," Larsen said. "The real story is the people behind the money, and what the courts do. How many people have the same experience I do?"
Hawthorne Justice Court Judge Jay T. Gunter, who dismissed the charges on Wednesday, said there is a reason the court waited five years.
Gunter said he hired Valley Collection Agency, of Glendale, Arizona earlier this year to go over two filing cabinets and four drawers full of warrants dating back six years. In May, the collection agency made copies of more than 1,700 warrants and is in the process of following up on them, he said. Gunter estimates about 75 to 80 percent are for unpaid traffic violations.
"I don't issue the citations," Gunter said. "I don't arrest anybody. It's not my job. My job is to deal with the citation or the criminal charge. We are a court of limited jurisdiction. Bottom line is we can't clear a citation without the payment."
Gunter said the court's previous collection agency "wasn't very active."
Violators are alerted 30 days after failing to appear, Gunter said. Bench warrants are $300 and can include additional fees, he said.
"Bottom line is we never received it (Larsen's check)," Gunter said Tuesday. "He didn't pay it as far as I am concerned."
Larsen said the court neglected to examine the evidence he presented, which included a certified mail receipt from 2009 and a check that remains in Oregon's unclaimed property database made out to Hawthorne Justice Court.
Gunter said he could only remember one other instance where a check was lost in the mail in the eight years he's been in office.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com