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After I posted "Holy fugitive, Batman", I received a few comments and emails implying that I was unfairly representing the process that has led to Collin County law enforcement dealing with over 12,000 "Failure to pay tolls" arrest warrants.
So I asked the Public Information office at NTTA if they cared to respond. They did, and here is their response.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to respond to your article.
Most NTTA drivers, more than 95% of those who travel on North Texas toll roads to be exact, pay their tolls through a TollTag, ZipCash or the violation/invoice process.
However, the individuals to which you reference have driven on the toll roads and - for whatever reason - have not only failed to pay tolls, but have also failed to contact the NTTA to pay, and have not responded to several notices/invoices sent by us for payment.
At that point, the process for enforcing toll payment is handed over to the court of the local jurisdiction in which the violation occurred. This process is outlined in the Texas Transportation Code Section 366.178.
As such, the warrants you reference are for "failure to appear" and not the failure to pay as you mention in your story. The original citation is for failure to pay tolls, but the citations are issued from the Department of Public Safety if someone doesn't call, respond, come in, contact, or make arrangements with the Court. The NTTA has no authority to issue warrants for failure to pay a toll. Rather, these warrants are issued by the court because these individuals did not appear.
It is also important to note that these individuals who receive "failure to appear notices" have used the toll roads multiple times before any of this process starts and an invoice for payment is sent.
The NTTA and DPS use all means available to send toll invoices to the correct address, and there are multiple checks along the way to identify the vehicle's registered owner. Moreover, the NTTA has a court coordinator to assist patrons with any questions or concerns about their toll bills.
There is a simple message for drivers who chose not to pay: If you drive on the toll roads - pay the tolls like everyone else.
Thank you in advance,
Asst. Public Information Officer
North Texas Tollway Authority
Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast asked what I think is a very important question, "Licensed peace officers are some of the most expensive employees on every local government's payroll. Does it really make sense to use them as bill collectors for the toll booth operators?".
I know I would feel better sleeping at night knowing my local deputies and police officers were stopping/solving crimes instead of chasing down toll jumpers.
I have little sympathy for those who drive on the toll roads and refuse to pay. I just don't think that collecting tolls is the highest (or even proper) use of the limited resources in our criminal justice system.
It appears to me that the NTTA is saving money using the automated toll system by passing collection costs down to the police agencies and violators.
As to the "failure to appear" vs. "failure to pay", I appreciate the distiction. I used the term "failure to pay tolls" because that is the description used on the Sheriff's Department warrant page.
Also, where is proper service on these people?
My understanding is that a peace officer (mainly DPS) watches the violation on tape (much like red light cameras), and after the regular NTTA process, issue the citations electronically. In fact, I believe administrative staff enter the tickets electronically and they are automatically filed with the Court. I know a few years ago NTTA began paying for an employee in Justice Court 4 in Frisco just to handle all the citations.
Then, a notice is sent to the registered owner (not necessarily the driver - again just like red light cameras). If they fail to appear a capias warrant is issued.
Long story short, I don't think a lot of police time is spend on the proccess. I think it's mainly a cash cow, and think of all the money generated for the state and county from the citations and warrants. I'm definately not saying it's right - it's not. But, it does give some insight into the real motives here.
People have several opportunities to clear it up.
Am I on the list? No. Are my friends on the list? No. Why? Because we are responsible human beings and we pay our tickets if we get them and we pay our taxes and our tolls and respond to notices we get in the mail.
However, there are a lot of irresponsible people and there will always be people making excuses for them.
Even after one call per month to them and being assured the account was current, today we are told we are on the hook for %7,800.00 representing 368 toll violations. That amount can conveniently be knocked down to $2,200.00 using their VEA option. What?
They show no calls, no correspondence and are unwilling to work with us. Well, to that I say work with our attorney.
We will not be held hostage by inept customer service practices by the NTTA. That is a promise. And to anyone reading, this could happen to you. You may not ever have an issue but we are living proof their system is flawed and will fight this. We are not crooks nor are we dishonest people. We have done our best to GIVE them our money for months...too bad they didn't do what was needed to ensure they got paid.
I will not be bullied by the NTTA...neither should you.
BTW, I have a real problem with paying road tolls that my taxes have already paid for - just the same as I do with HOV lanes which accomplish the opposite of what they are intended to do - by reducing road capacity, that again I've paid for.
In any case, if I get a ticket in a parking lot for not having an Inspection sticker and I ignore the ticket and ignore the notices I get that I owe money for that ticket, a warrant will be issued for me. A police officer will not be dispatched for my arrest, but rather, the next time I get stopped by a police officer for any violation, they will see the warrant and then take me in.
So this tollway issue isn't unique, hence it's a non-issue.
If your issue is with NTTA's customer service, that's a separate issue from whether or not an automated toll collection system is Constitutional or fair.
This is no different than any other person who gets a ticket and doesn't pay it.
Your taxes aren't being used to build a toll road.
You are, however, paying for the HOV lane that is restricted, but it's federal money, which is still your money if you pay income taxes.
The reason local governments are creating HOV lanes is because the Democrats in Washington are mandating HOV lanes for local governments to receive federal funds. That's how national politicians affect local policy.
You complained about Bill's reporting of contentious mailers during the Pct 4 commissioners race. You complained about Bill's reporting of the non-bid contracts for Sam Johnson's son. You complained about this article about the, literally, thousands of warrants resulting from the NTTA's criminal complaints. And, it's not just Democrats in Washington that are making decisions on transportation. Everyone is doing their best, and some mistakes are made, and they are correcting them.
I encourage you to be a little more open minded and realize that, while you certainly don't have to agree with everything on this blog, there are some decent points raised here.
Maybe you miss where I praise Bill's good work.
Instead of talking about me personally, why don't you tell me how this issue of warrants because of unpaid tolls is different than warrants issued because of unpaid parking tickets or warrants because of unpaid tickets from not registering you car or not getting it inspected?
People have been getting arrested for not paying taxes and fees and tolls for years. So what is the story here?
I only wish that I and my friends can one day rise to the level of perfectness of you and your friends who would never appear on the NTTA's naughty list. In fact, I'm not on the list.
But, I did once change my credit card which was billed on my Toll Tag account and was sent a bill, which if I didn't pay, may have turned into a criminal charge. The issue here is the "last known address". All notices, both courtesy notices and court hearing notices are mailed to the last known address of the registered owner.
Potential problems include:
1) The new owner not changing the title at not fault to previous owners;
2) The post office not forwarding mail in a timely manner; and/or
3) Simply forgetting to update your driver's license address (and a lot of good people do forget).
Once the NTTA does file charges and should it go to warrant, defendants are rarely notified outside the few months that a case is worked. A tag just sits on their record until they are pulled over. And, if you are lucky enough to get notice that there is warrant, it costs literally hundreds of dollars in fees.
I know you're nearly flawless, Mr. Walters, but in reality there are probably several people on the NTTA's naughty list that don't deserve it - who are tax paying, toll paying, and honest people who somehow fall through the cracks of a computerized collection system dealing with millions of drivers.
How's that for ad hominem?
How many parking tickets or registration tickets are issued by a computer system?
Take into account the volume of "warrants" we are discussing. How many people travel the toll roads & how many park illegally? In addition it concerns me greatly about the automation that the toll road uses to pursue "toll runners." I too am not on the list, but have had several toll booths flash a red light at me when I have paid the correct amount.
The NTTA competed with private companies for the SH 121 concession.
Maybe a better analogy would be comparing toll collections to any other private business collection effort.
How about issuing warrants for non-payment of credit card bills? I'm sure the police could add those collection efforts to their daily patrol duties.
Would you have us return to the days of debtors prisons?
In the case of speeding tickets - the police officers hands you the ticket with a court date and has you sign it. If you don't show up a warrant is issued.
In the case of parking tickets, when you return to your car a green envelope waits for you on the windshield giving you options on how to proceed.
When you get pulled over for expired registration or inspection, you get a ticket with a court date and address of where to take care of it, and a deadline. If you don't meet the deadline a warrant can be issued.
Conversely, in the instance of toll booths, it is completely possible that a defendant NEVER receives notice of any pending charge against him. Even in civil suits you can't get a default judgment unless there is sworn evidence that the defendant has been PERSONALLY served (or in some instances you can run a newspaper ad if the dispute involves the title to land - citation by publication). Bill brought this issue of notice of charges up in his original article.
Why can't you see that NTTA failure to pay toll charges are fundamentally differnt in the following ways:
1) The alleged viiolation is taken by a camera, whereas all other citations must be personally viewed by a police officer (red light cameras are civil, not criminal, remember);
2) In all other citations for traffic offenses the offender recieved a written citation, IN PERSON, by a licensed peace officer. In NTTA cases, a computer 'automatically' generates correspondence and notices based on databases (which can take time to update, have glitches, and/or be outdated), doesn't certify the authenticity of the address, and human hands, much less eyes, rarely touch it.
The exact analogy would be if you let a friend drive your car on Preston road on January 1st. A camera took a picture of the license plate on your car driving 15 mph over the limit. Three months later (and yes, it can take that long) you get a letter from Plano PD saying you owe them money. But what if you've moved? Remember NTTA does bulk mailings which don't always qualify for forwarding service. A few months go by, your friend never told you they were speeding on Preston, and you get pulled over one gloomy night. To your surprise a warrant was issued for your arrest for allowing someone to speed in your car. WHAT?! WAIT?! You don't want to go to jail, do you? You're so responsible, aren't you?
Too bad Mr. Walters, we have to lock you up. Sound fair?
If a "friend" drives my car and gets a parking ticket and throws it in the trash, the same thing happens to me. I get a notice. But if I moved and didn't bother to inform the state and didn't do mail forwarding and all the other things that grown ups do, the same thing will happen. Eventually, a warrant will be issued. OMG! OMG!
Bill, I guess since the tollways are private enterprises, we can all go as fast as we want. Yeah, that analogy of yours went pretty far, didn't it?
>Why are the police being used to collect
>from people who wrote bad checks to private
Did a light come on in your head? I fail to see how such a deep insight must immediately be shared with the world!
Writing a bad check is fraud; an offense against the good order of the state. Speeding is also an offense. Either is likely to get one arrested.
Now, if I don't pay my credit card bill, I may be sued, but I've committed no criminal offense. The police don't care.
But if I steal that credit card and forge a signature on the receipt, I've committed a crime and I should expect to be arrested.
But you know all this. I think you just like acting 13.
I agree with you & CCC. The arguments put forth by you & CCC are strong & make sense.
Stole my homework??? Let's get real Mr. Walters, you've lost yet another debate. But keep checking that warrant website because with the blinders you are wearing, the police may be on your doorstep oneday & you will definately be crying "FOUL!"
I'm acting like I'm 13? LOL. Thanks. It's sad you can't debate like an adult without insulting people personally. You are just mad that you were so wrong about the crime near the DART light rail stations in Plano.
Bill, I can drive as fast as I want on a private road. So if your position is that the tollway is private, thus the county has no business enforcing toll payment, then the police shouldn't be enforcing speed limits on it either.
You realize that not paying your DART fare can lead to a warrant too, right? Are you going to be consistent and be outraged by that? LOL
"Let's get real Mr. Walters, you've lost yet another debate. But keep checking that warrant website because with the blinders you are wearing, the police may be on your doorstep oneday & you will definately be crying "FOUL!""
Yeah, this is what I mean by "homework". These comments are childish and the excuses made are like the excuses a child makes for losing his homework. "My friend stole it"...."my friend was driving my car."
All you are doing is showing your ignorance on this issue, because the police aren't going to people's doors to arrest them for not paying tolls. If you don't pay your tolls and then you ignore the mailings requesting that you pay them and then ignore mailings from the county to appear in court, then a warrant will be issued and the next time you get pulled over, you will be arrested. So what? You should be. If you moved and didn't give the state your new address, thus their mailings didn't reach you, that's your own fault. Take responsibility for your own actions. Be a grown-up.
And guess what? I pay my tolls, so there won't be a warrant for me. I register my car too. So there won't be a warrant for that either. I get my car registered too, so there won't be a warrant for that. I pay my taxes too. Wow, this is so amazing I'm able to do all this. I must have super powers or something, huh?
This whole argument that tollway tolls are the same as paying your credit card bill is ridiculous, so obviously, glaringly ridiculous.
Maybe a better analogy would be comparing toll collections to any other private business collection effort. How about issuing warrants for non-payment of credit card bills? "
The NTTA is a public-private partnership organization, like DART and many other partnerships.
It's a political subdivision of the state of Texas under Chapter 366 of the Transportation Code.
NTTA began as a state agency in 1953.
The NTTA is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors, two appointed by each of the four counties in its service area, and one appointed by the Texas Governor. It is a non-profit entity. It performs many of the same functions as the Texas Department of Transportation
It's not the same thing as a credit card company.
Texas Transportation Code - Section 366.178. Failure Or Refusal To Pay Toll
§ 366.178. FAILURE OR REFUSAL TO PAY TOLL. (a) A motor
vehicle other than a police or emergency vehicle that passes
through a toll collection facility, whether driven or towed, shall
pay the proper toll.
(b) A person who fails or refuses to pay a toll provided for
the use of a project is liable for a fine not to exceed $250, plus an
administrative fee incurred in connection with the violation.
(c) If a person fails to pay the proper toll:
(1) on issuance of a notice of nonpayment, the
registered owner of the nonpaying vehicle shall pay both the proper
toll and the administrative fee; and
(2) an authority may charge an administrative fee of
not more than $100 to recover the cost of collecting the unpaid
(d) Notice of nonpayment under Subsection (c)(1) shall be
sent by first-class mail and may not require payment of the proper
toll and the administrative fee before the 30th day after the date
the notice is mailed. The registered owner shall pay a separate
toll and administrative fee for each nonpayment.
(e) If the registered owner of the vehicle fails to pay the
proper toll and administrative fee in the time specified by the
notice, the owner shall be cited as for other traffic violations as
provided by law, and the owner shall pay a fine of not more than $250
for each nonpayment.
(f) In the prosecution of a violation for nonpayment, proof
that the vehicle passed through a toll collection facility without
payment of the proper toll together with proof that the defendant
was the registered owner or the driver of the vehicle when the
failure to pay occurred, establishes the nonpayment of the
registered owner. The proof may be by testimony of a peace officer
or authority employee, video surveillance, or any other reasonable
After scratching my head for a while I learned that the George Bush tollway doesn't have toll plazas anymore. They just take a pic as you're driving by and mail you a bill. Ok, so then I put it in a pile of junk mail and lost it. A month later I get another bill for the $6 plus $2.50 late fee.
So I'm thinking "yeah, I need to pay that since it says there's a $25 admin fee" but it's not super high on my priorities.
Two weeks later I get a bill for the $6 PLUS $175 in admin fees!!! Yeah, they add the $25 fee on EACH TOLL CHARGE! So now my $6 fee went up 3000% to $181 and I'm feeling a little molested by the big hairy hand of the
NTTA. I called their # and calmly expressed my "surprise" and the girl agreed to lower it to "only $64". I politely asked to speak to her supervisor and once I was ransferred, that's when it got rude. I was told that it was all my fault because I didn't pay in the given time period, and I should be grateful that they were waiving 2/3rds of it. And if I didn't pay it, it would go to collections for the whole amount and a citation would be issued to me by the police. The whole thing
was very surreal and aggressive. I kept asking who had the authority to get this taken off and she just said "Me. And I won't do it."
Me: Why not? Don't you think a $58
admin fee is a pretty expensive charge to re-mail me a $6 bill?
Supervisor (Juliette): Because it's our policy not to waive more than 67%.
Me: Yeah but you just told me you had the ability to waive more.
Supervisor: Ma'am, I just told you I'm not gonna do it.
Me: Why not? (And round and round)
Finally I asked to speak to her boss and he politely lowered it to $14, and I paid. I still don't think it is right for a toll road to not tell you it's a toll road and just mail you a bill. But I don't have a big problem with paying for the tolls... the problem is that they're allowed to
EXTORT a 3000% markup through threat
of police citation for failing to pay. And if you don't pay that, then you get a warrant issued for your arrest. If Citibank charged a $3000 fee for being late on a $100 payment, then nobody would bank with Citibank. But here, you have no choice... you don't find out you went through a toll plaza until you get a bill in the mail.
And if they put a big warning that said "we're gonna mark this up 3000% if you don't pay then people like me would probably take notice, but they put it in fine print and it's not at all clear that the $25 fee is for every toll charge (nor does it make any sense to charge an admin fee for each line item on a bill, unless your goal is to rack up an incredible amount of "free" money for yourself.)
So, please be aware when you read about the 10 million in unpaid tolls and admin fees, what they're saying is that they have about $300,000 in unpaid tolls and 9.7 million in unpaid "admin fees". This is wrong and it has to change...
welcome back Columbus! and they had the courage to ask for aid to help rebuild the gov. mansion.. don't they have insurance on that thing?
i've read juliani has tons on money invested in this transhighway..
too bad no one cares.. juarez is not very far away. ripples people, ripples..
My name is Jeff and I have always paid my tolls at the booth and until they did away with the toll-takers, have never had a problem. I admit, we spaced out paying the bill and I have no problem paying it and a reasonable late fee for not paying timely, but this is ridiculous. ($260 for 10 tolls all on one bill) Furthermore, I think if they are going to charge outrageous fees and hide behind the wording of the law, they should have to follow the whole law. I think that the keywords below are shall and option. They do not have toll takers for me to give my money to. Therefore they have given me no option on use of a transponder. I would honestly rather stop and pay per use rather than to get a bill in the mail. What are my options now? How can I fight this?
In the short version:
An authority shall operate its turnpike projects through a force of toll-takers and other employees of the authority.
The following entities shall consider offering motor vehicle operators the option of using a transponder to pay tolls without stopping
The longer version:
Laws of Texas Transportation Code
Sec. 366.182. Operation of Turnpike Project. (a) An authority shall operate its turnpike projects through a force of toll-takers and other employees of the authority or through services contracted under Subsection (b) or (c). (b) An authority may enter into an agreement with one or more persons to provide, on terms and conditions approved by the authority, personnel and services to design, construct, operate, maintain, expand, enlarge, or extend the authority's turnpike projects. (c) An authority may contract with any state or local governmental entity for the services of peace officers of that agency.
Sec. 366.179. Use and Return of Transponders. (a) For purposes of this section, a transponder is a device placed on or within an automobile that is capable of transmitting or receiving information used to assess or collect tolls. A transponder is insufficiently funded if there is no money in the account for which the transponder was issued. (b) Any law enforcement or peace officer of an entity with which an authority has contracted under Section 366.182(c) may seize a stolen or insufficiently funded transponder and return it to the authority that issued the transponder. An insufficiently funded transponder may not be seized before the 30th day after the date that an authority has sent a notice of delinquency to the holder of the account. (c) The following entities shall consider offering motor vehicle operators the option of using a transponder to pay tolls without stopping, to mitigate congestion at toll locations, to enhance traffic flow, and to otherwise increase the efficiency of operations: (1) the authority; (2) an entity to which a project authorized by this chapter is transferred; or (3) a third party service provider under contract with an entity described by Subdivision (1) or (2). (d) Transponder customer account information, including contact and payment information and trip data, is confidential and not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code.
I found my material at http://www.fastlaws.com/index.php?id=txtn
My wife and I have written to State representative Phil King and Senator Cornyn asking for a law to limit toll fines. We think this is going to be the best bet for any change. We hope you folks will contact your State Rep. also. It’s really too bad there needs to even be a law put in place for this. Total abuse of the NTTA to conduct business with the public.
Never should one agency or semi-private semi-public company be able to charge fees and fees on top of fees completely unregulated with no accounting for their charges.
It is also obvious from his comments that Mr. Walters has some sort of professional association with ntta.
I PAY MY Bills and am still have trouble with NTTA over fees from 2 different cars and a toll tag I keep extra money on. The fact that they can charge fees without regulations needs to be changed. Let’s stop this ABUSIVE NTTA from money collection fraud on administrative fees.
Please, please take me to court!! I cannot wait.
Perry and Kay B. Hutchison, I am calling you next or will see you in DC.
I spoke with NTTA today about this $500 dollar bill they sent me. They will not reduce it. They told me that they can not reduce it down since my address has been verified.
I really think that this is class less. I did not get/see any notice to pay toll. I pay everything on time and I can't pay if im not aware. It might be $25 dollars in tolls but no way am i going to pay the amount that they are asking.
I feel that it is wrong of how the system works, especially for out of state workers like me. It is not agreed to pay $25 on each transaction by me and I want to find out if anyone else is in the same situation.
Please contact me to let me know.. I am strongly considering to get a lawyer to fight this for me. My EMAIL is email@example.com.
I had paid two NTTA invoices using an online bill pay system offered by my bank. Using this system, NTTA receives online bill pay only through paper checks. Online, I could clearly see that money had been withdrawn from my account and paid to NTTA. NTTA maintained that the invoice in violation and a second that was soon to be outstanding were not paid. My bank faxed me copies of both checks and I immediately took them to the Plano office.
When I presented proof of payment, the representative's reaction was not what I expected. She stated that she couldn't do anything because the numbers on the back of the faxed copy of the check were not legible. I showed her the NTTA endorsement stamp on the back of the check which was clearly legible on the first and distinguishable on the second and she said "How do I know you didn't do it?"
"You have got to be kidding me." NTTA accepted and cashed my checks, took my money, applied it to some unknown account, issued me a violation and then called me a liar. Eventually, a supervisor straightened it out and credited payment but the experience was an eye-opener. Even though my case worked out and I paid no late fee of any kind, I can only imagine the hardship this “Authority” can impose on individuals who get caught on the wrong side of their billing practices but lack sufficient evidence.
My first concern the NTTA’s insistence that a reduction of fine violations by 66% as a generous offer; that they were doing me a favor. I pay my bills on time. I don’t know how other companies handle late charges but I’m sure the heavy handed approach of NTTA far exceeds the practices of any other legitimate business. In my case they were charging me $25.00 for each of the seven tolls on the invoice. I asked a supervisor in Plano how they justify $175.00 for mailing a violation that has all the same information that the original invoice has. He stated it was to cover costs. I pointed out that the costs were primarily in collecting the data to generate the first invoice and the only extra costs were for the paper, envelope and postage to mail the violation. He maintained his position that they would be saving me money if I paid $66.79. The fact that the State allows the NTTA to maintain this position in collecting heavy fines is very disturbing. I agree that costs should escalate with each missed due date but that cost should be based on each invoice, not each item on an invoice and additional fees should be inline with other regulated services such as power and water. Incidentally, I once noticed I had not made a water bill payment in several weeks. I called the city and told them that I could possibly be a dead beat. She confirmed my suspicions and quoted me the amount of the missing bill with no late charges. Compare that to other NTTA stories you may hear.
Secondly, how does the NTTA accept a payment without knowing how to apply that payment? Apparently in my case, my bank-issued checks had an old invoice number on them. But that invoice number still brought up my name. Additionally, my name and address were on the check. Also, the check was accepted and cashed by NTTA. Repeated requests to explain how my payment was applied have only resulted in opinions and guesses. Does the State not have any oversight, any audits of this Island of Misfit Toys?
Third, I am now the skeptical owner of two toll tags. Signing up, I find that I will be in violation if my account goes below zero? That NTTA will take money from my credit card whenever they need to? How is it that I get billed for a service I have not used? Why doesn’t NTTA have a sufficient operating account? Any normal business sends out a monthly invoice and receives payments from its customers. Some companies hold deposits. Why is NTTA allowed to operate so far out of the parameters of normal business practices?
I now have two toll tags. God help me!
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