NEW ORLEANS-- Thirteen years ago, Anne Williams underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer. It was a difficult time in her life that she would rather not think about, but it all came back with a roar after getting a notice in the mail recently.
'All of a sudden, I'm a wanted citizen for a ticket that's 13 years old,' she said.
The postcard-sized notice came from Orleans Traffic Court for a ticket she received in August of 1999. Williams said she keeps meticulous files, doesn't recall getting a ticket and was shocked an arrest warrant had been issued.
'Never been in trouble, never been arrested, never been in jail, but now I'm wanted by the law,' she said.
Williams isn't the only one. Owen Joyner received the same arrest warrant notice in the mail for a ticket he also received in 1999.
'I mean, it's 13 years ago,' he said. 'To be told there was a warrant for me, that didn't make my day, I'll tell you that.'
So what's behind the notices? Orleans Traffic Court Clerk Noel Cassanova declined to do an on-camera interview, but said such notices are sent out every so often. He also said, just because the ticket is old, doesn't mean the citation is no longer valid.
'Their obligation is to respond to the citation. Failing to appear is not an option,' Cassanova said.
In the case of Williams and Joyner, court records show they both received traffic tickets in 1999. The tickets show their signatures at the bottom, which Cassanova said amounts to a promise to show up in court to address the ticket. In the case of Williams, though, the arrest warrant notice she just received, was the very first ticket reminder notice ever sent to her.
'That troubles me in so many ways,' said City Council Member Stacy Head, adding that her office had heard from constituents about the notices. 'These were pre-Katrina debts that were allegedly due. How in the world can we expect people to respond to them? They shouldn't have to pay for them. And, certainly, I do not want to see the Orleans Parish Prison filled with our citizens for unpaid traffic tickets.'
It is something Anne Williams doesn't want to see, either.
'I just hope they can get this straight so I can relax in my car again,' she said.
The Orleans Traffic Court Clerk said those who receive the notices have several options: contest the ticket, speak with a prosecutor, request a judge trial or pay the ticket.