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Old Parking Tickets Come Back To Haunt Mass. Drivers

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – If you think those old parking tickets stuffed in the back of a drawer somewhere have been forgotten about by the RMV, think again.

State motor vehicle computer systems are now talking to each other and they are planning on catching up with you eventually.

John Bailey needs his car to commute from Winthrop to Cambridge every day. That’s why he was pretty upset when a sternly worded letter arrived one day from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

It said: “The state of Rhode Island has suspended my ability to operate in Rhode island and have 30 days to rectify the situation otherwise they are going to suspend my license in Massachusetts.”

He’s not a bad driver.

Rhode Island revoked his license because of an unpaid $32 parking ticket – a ticket he doesn’t even remember, because he got it when he was a student at the University of Rhode Island in 1992.

Every time your license comes up for renewal, the Registry of Motor Vehicles runs it through a national database and if there’s a suspension in another state, you have to straighten it out or you’ll lose your license in Massachusetts too.

But that still doesn’t answer the question – why two decades later?

With Bailey’s permission, we had the registry check out his record. They said they ran his license against the national driver registry in 1997, 2002 and 2007.

All three times, it came back clean.

It wasn’t until this year that the Rhode Island suspension finally surfaced.

“I think its all about revenue,” says Bailey. “I think it’s sates trying to get a new revenue stream.”

Not true, according to Rhode Island. State officials claim there was a mix-up with the correct spelling of Bailey’s name in their system. They also say there are 46,000 Massachusetts drivers with outstanding violations in Rhode Island.

Boston defense attorney Peter Elikann explained that limitations statutes are to avoid unfair prosecutions when evidence fades and memories are not clear.

But a parking ticket is considered clear and convincing evidence.

“You could be at the nursing home at age 105 and they’ll get you for something that you did when you were 17,” says Elikann.

Bailey said he tried but couldn’t straighten out the matter by mail or over the phone, so he said he had no choice but take a vacation day and go to Rhode Island where he paid his $32.

He tells us he is just glad he didn’t go to college in Seattle.

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