NEW ORLEANS -- Instead of tossing aside a ticket for a simple seat-belt violation, Shirley Engelhardt decided to be proactive and pay it right away rather than fight it.
“I just wanted to pay it and get it over with, and none of the options on the ticket were available to me except actually going down there and paying it, which is what I was trying to avoid,” she said.
Engelhardt said every time she went on the New Orleans traffic court's website, she got a message saying her ticket was not in the system, which is why she finally went in person to pay the fine.
“I continued up until the day I went to pay it, which was March 6, and it still could not be located in the system,” she said.
To make matters worse, the name on the ticket was wrong.
“My first name was the first half of my last name, and my last name was the second half of my last name.”
On the back of the ticket it lists all the different options. It even says it can take up to seven days for the ticket to reach traffic court.
Yet, according to a traffic court spokeswoman, Engelhardt's ticket wasn't turned over to traffic court administrators until Feb. 26 -- 17 days after the ticket was first issued.
“The ticket was due a month from the day I was issued the ticket, and still, four days before the due date it wasn't available,” she said. “So it’s very frustrating.”
The New Orleans Police Department says that's not typical, but it can happen. The NOPD says seven business days is only the minimum amount of time it takes to send the ticket over to traffic court.
To be safe, officers are instructed to tell folks to wait at least two full weeks before trying to pay the ticket online or in person. That's because before it's ever sent to traffic court, the NOPD has several checks and balances in place when it processes tickets.
“You know, should the police be holding on to the ticket for two and half weeks when you only have a month?”
We talked to officials with NOPD and traffic court. They told us folks will not be penalized for tickets that are not processed before the 30-day ticket deadline.
In fact, folks are not required to pay or take any action before the date written on the ticket. The ticket deadline is simply when a person must enter a guilty or not guilty plea for the traffic violation.