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Question of the day

Thursday, Jul 11, 2019

* The Tribune has a story today about municipalities hiring collection agencies to track down people with unpaid tickets and fines. It’s a cash cow for the locals, which don’t have to spend a dime to collect the fines. It makes money for the collection agencies, which keep a large chunk of what they collect. But some of these fines are ancient. For instance

Seth Jumps, who lives in Jackson County, near Carbondale, got a call about six months ago from the same number over and over for several weeks. He finally decided to answer. The caller was a collection agent working for Jackson County.

The agency told Jumps he had two unpaid tickets: a $150 ticket from 2012 for fishing without a license, and a $125 ticket from 2002 for screeching tires. He said the agency didn’t provide him with copies of the tickets, or any other paperwork.

Jumps said he was certain he paid those tickets. He renews his fishing license each year and believes he wouldn’t be able to if he had an unpaid violation. And this was the first time in 16 years that he heard from the county about possible outstanding tickets, he said.

“It was 16 years ago. I have no track record or anything,” Jumps said. “Who’s going to keep a receipt?”

Goodman, from NIU, said someone may be tempted to pay a ticket, rather than fight it, if they don’t have records. He raised concerns about collection agencies choosing whom to pursue.

* The Question: Should the state place some sort of time limit on these private debt collections? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

picture polls

…Adding… Text from Rep. Stephanie Kifowit…

Hi Rich, I tried to address this issue last session but couldn’t get the bill called on the floor. It’s an issue because banks only keep records for 7 years so it’s impossible for a person to contest a violation from that long ago.

Her bill is here.

If you check the witness slips, the Illinois Municipal League, the City of Chicago and Cook County were opposed, which explains the brick.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    Yes, time limits and limits on the number of contacts (to the extent it doesn’t conflict with federal laws on the issue). No reason someone should be harassed over small, old, questionable debts like that. If the governments are so concerned about such lawbreaking take the person back to court and prove the debt.

  2. - lakeside - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:11 pm:

    I’d use the bankruptcy rule and let them expire after 7 years. If you can’t catch the person by then, move on.

    Regardless, the collection agency should absolutely have to provide proof of the offense. “You owe us $275, trust us and pay up” is beyond absurd.

  3. - wonkavist - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:16 pm:

    There should be time limits as well as better record keeping and oversight. There should be some record of attempts to contact and those attempts should not occur years after the fine/fee is incurred.

  4. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:17 pm:

    City of Chicago stuck a collection agency on me because apparently they never submitted insurance reimbursement paperwork for an ambulance ride. They harassed relatives and me for months but would never say why they were calling. Since I was unaware of owing anyone money, I didn’t respond. Finally, like the person in the story, I took the call, found out what it was about and offered to settle it but not for full amount since it was the City that screwed up. Exchanged messages with a supervisor but then never heard from them again.

    I get the need for money, but going after citizens because the municipalities screw up just ain’t cool. And doing it more than a decade later is absurd and should be stopped.

  5. - Perrid - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:18 pm:

    Yes there should be a limit. If we’re going to have statutes of limitations on “actual” crimes there is no reason not to limit fines. There should also be a public record of tickets/fines, where you can check and see if you need to pay something, to double check these collection agencies. Maybe something like that already exists but I’ve never heard of it and can’t find it, it seems you might have to call the county clerk and hope.

  6. - benniefly2 - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:21 pm:

    Considering the statute of limitations for Felony 1 theft of real property is 7 years, it seems pretty unreasonable that the government or bill collectors should be hounding someone for decades over a parking ticket.

  7. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    If someone sues you in state court and wins a judgment against you they have seven years to collect, unless they get court approval (and properly notify the debtor) to revive (extend) the judgment.

    There is no reason to let state/county debt go longer than 7 years without a similar process for notification/renewal being required.

  8. - Klaus VonBulow - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    The 7 year rule is biblical and seems reasonable. The State should also provide some guidelines similar to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). It would seem reasonable that the collection agency would be required to provide proof in accordance with due processes.

  9. - A Jack - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:22 pm:

    Yes, there are statues of limitations for most real crimes outside of murder. It is absurd that there is no time limit on civil penalties.

  10. - Froganon - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:23 pm:

    Yes to limits. I’d go with 5 years. The collection agency must provide written documentation of the tickets/fines via registered mail. Phoning in a payment demand is a joke.

  11. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    Yes. In no instance should there be collection efforts if the underlying records & documentation haven’t been maintained by the government.

  12. - thunderspirit - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    There absolutely should be a time limit. Seven years seems more than reasonable.

  13. - KeepReceiptsTilUDie - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:27 pm:

    This is why I keep RECEIPTS!!! Then, my wife yells at me about why I keep receipts for years…

  14. - phocion - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:27 pm:

    Voted yes. The city of Evanston hired a collection agency that went after me for a parking ticket issued 6 years ago. I paid the ticket when I got it. I ignored the collection agency. I haven’t heard back. I would recommend that the AG look at collection agency practices altogether. They’re clearly trying to capitalize on people’s poor memories and lack of ancient records to scam a quick buck.

  15. - Robert the Bruce - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:32 pm:

    Wow, I’m in the minority here. Voted no. If there’s a time limit, there’s an incentive for folks to just ignore their tickets.

  16. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:34 pm:

    I agree with the prevailing thoughts shared by others on the post. 7 years unless a court says otherwise.

  17. - illini - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    May tears ago I took a date to Lacledes Landing to listen to a band and parked in a spot that was not marked or restricted from what I could determine. When we go back to my car I had a $50 parking ticket issued by the National Parks Service. I ignored it. Six months later a US Marshall knocked on my door with a summons for failure to pay the ticket. Needless to say my situation was resolved the very next day. I know not to mess with the Feds.

  18. - Barrington - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    There is already a statute of limitations on debt in Illinois. 5 years if there is no written contract that includes credit card debt and 7 years if a written contract. 4 years for secured debt such as a car. I really hope individuals who receive these calls complain.

  19. - Nuke the Whales - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:44 pm:

    ==Wow, I’m in the minority here. Voted no. If there’s a time limit, there’s an incentive for folks to just ignore their tickets.==
    Or an incentive for the government to make an actual effort to collect money. (see illini’s comment).

  20. - thunderspirit - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:45 pm:

    To the update: yes, the reason for the brick is obvious now. That’s a whole lotta clout against it.

  21. - OutOfState - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 2:52 pm:

    Voted yes. If the IRS says you only need to keep tax records for seven years, it’s not reasonable for other units of government to ask you to keep records of tickets indefinitely.

  22. - Excitable Boy - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:00 pm:

    Yes because I’m pretty sure I have some unpaid parking tickets in Urbana from 2005-2006.

  23. - State of DenIL - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:14 pm:

    Just ban collection agencies.

  24. - the Edge - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:20 pm:

    The taxpayers bill of rights adopted in 2000 or so only allows a municipality to collect unpaid taxes from business for, I believe, up to 7 years (might be less; I’m going on memory) so why not treat individuals equally. Seems reasonable.

  25. - Captain Obvious - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:26 pm:

    3 years. If they can’t collect it by then, the probability of ever collecting is very low.

  26. - Earnest - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:27 pm:

    Agree with Rep Kifowit. I’ll make the optimistic assumption that her bill didn’t make it to the floor because it was a very busy session and hope it will be called at the next opportunity. Nice reporting by the Trib.

  27. - Boone's is Back - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:34 pm:

    I hear Detective Bookman is for fire.

  28. - Boone's is Back - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:34 pm:


  29. - student loan - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 3:35 pm:

    About 15 years after my last student loan payment, my alma mater contacted me saying I never made my final payment, which was for approximately $75 plus interest. My parents still lived at the same address as my college years, but they had never made any attempts to collect the money. It was easier to just pay it.

  30. - Ares - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 9:03 pm:

    Force the agency to sue, then demand a jury when sued. And make a statute of limitations on tickets an absolute requirement for any local pension bailout.

  31. - oh? - Friday, Jul 12, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    Drop a note in the mail that you dispute it and to stop contact. Their only next step is suing and proving it in court.

  32. - Anony - Monday, Jul 15, 19 @ 12:59 pm:

    The Comptroller’s Tax Intercept allows for 7 years as well.

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