By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

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.

Comments (2)
  1. Julie Kovacs says:

    I live in Seattle, went to grad school in Cambridge, MA (Harvard) 1981-1986, and was told that my license will be suspended in Washington State (now, 2017!!) if I do not get this taken care of in 45 days. Calls to the Massachusetts DRV go unanswered, and they suggest on a recorded message that I go in to one of their offices Boston to get this taken care of! I would think that I am over the statute of limitations 30 years later…. but Washington State DMV told me that I am not.

  2. I got hit with similar. I apparently got a ticket in Waltham, MA back in 1992. I actually remember the day – not because of any actual ticket appearing on my car (there wasn’t one), but because I’ve only been there once, and it was for a mandatory meeting I didn’t want to go to, so I was already really annoyed when I reached the municipal parking lot, after sitting in miserable Rte 128 traffic all morning, only to discover a broken meter in the only open spot.

    Since there was no ticket on the car when I got back, I had assumed that they’d let me off the hook because the meter was broken. You can imagine my surprise when we moved to MA in 2015 and I could neither register our cars nor get a MA license due to a 23 yr old ticket I never even knew I’d received!

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