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Jury finds ticket-paying method illegal

LITTLE ROCK -- An Arkansas jury has decided that a Little Rock fine installment plan violated the state constitution's due process protections.

LaDonna Nelson sued the city in 2014, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. She alleged that she had to pay $30 in installment fees in addition to a $115 speeding fine, despite paying the fine within a month of it being imposed. The lawsuit alleged that Nelson had no way to contest the payments.

Nelson's 16-year-old son incurred the fine and signed up to pay for the penalty through a 3-month payment plan. The Legislature set a $10-per-month installment fee. The state receives $7.50, while the traffic court's technology fund receives the remaining $2.50.

Deputy City Attorney Rick Hogan said Nelson agreed to pay the fee when singing up for the installment plan and neglected to pursue available options to contest the fee. He said the city shouldn't be responsible for how the traffic court is run since it's not a city department. He also noted that the city doesn't receive any of the funds generated by the installment fee.

Nelson's lawsuit sought restitution for all early fine payers from May 2011 to July 2014, which was when the fee procedure was abolished. City records indicate that more than 13,000 people could be eligible for refunds, according to Nelson's lawyers.

"Everyone who paid early paid too much," said Tim Steadman, one of Nelson's lawyers. "Basically, the city says it can rip off Mrs. Nelson because she went to the wrong (payment) window. The government can't charge you too much money then only have to pay you back when you complain."

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza will decide the damages in a proceeding that hasn't yet been scheduled.

State Desk on 08/04/2018

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