3 On Your Side

Court pursues woman over 2004 traffic ticket

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(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Michelle Serban said it takes a lot to care for her family, including driving around and running errands.

"We're always going to the grocery store and driving around everywhere," Serban said.

And, when it comes to driving, Serban considers herself to be pretty safe.

"I'm a good driver. I've never been in a car accident, so hopefully that doesn't change or stop," she chuckled.

So, Serban was surprised when she went to her mailbox recently and pulled out a notice saying she had an unpaid traffic ticket in the amount of $311 and she needs to pay up now.

But Serban said she hasn't received a ticket recently and wondered if the notice was legitimate.

It turns out the notice was from Pima County Justice Court and when Serban called, she was told the citation was for allegedly failing to stop for a red light.

"I don't remember doing something like that and I asked her, 'When was this?' And she goes, '2004.'" 

Incredibly, Pima County Justice Court is pursuing a ticket after 13 years. But can it really do that?

"This is one of the longer ones that I've heard of, but the courts don't forget," said Phoenix attorney Tyler Allen.

He specializes in traffic citations, so we asked him to look at Serban's case.

He said if she does owe the fine, then he's surprised that her license has never been suspended for nonpayment, which is required by law.

"That's for the court to figure out," he said. "I don't know why the court did not pursue her earlier, but it looks like it fell through the cracks."

Pima County Justice Court tells 3 On Your Side that Serban's $311 traffic ticket did in fact fall through the cracks and it was just discovered in a recent audit of unpaid tickets.

So, Serban has a few options. According to Allen, she can pay the 13-year-old ticket and move on. Or, she can go to court and ask for a hearing where the police officer who wrote the ticket will have to testify that he remembers the circumstances of that traffic stop.

"I would ask specifically, 'Do you remember this incident or do you remember this ticket?' Most likely the cop isn't going to remember it," Tyler said.

Not only that, but the officer might even be retired or with another agency and unable to be located.

If Serban takes this gamble, her ticket will most likely be dismissed and go away. But she said she's still surprised she has to fight a traffic ticket that she doesn't even remember getting.

"It's ridiculous and I mean it's just expensive, too, at $311," she said.

Serban is still deciding if she'll pay the ticket or head on down to Pima County Justice Court and take her chances.

Copyright 2017 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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