Woman refuses to pay nearly 30-year-old traffic ticket for not wearing a seat belt

HAMILTON COUNTY, Iowa (KTRK) -- A woman is refusing to pay a traffic ticket that's nearly 30 years old.

Amy Rush says the officer who gave her the ticket should have been more concerned with her fate as a runaway, and shouldn't have given her the ticket in the first place.

Rush is now in her 40s, but back in 1990, she was a 15-year-old runaway who hitched a ride with an older man. The man got pulled over for speeding, and Rush says her seat belt shouldn't have been the officer's concern.

"You know I was a runaway. The officer that pulled us over, not only did not see an ID or license from me, but never inquired more about me," Rush said. "For all they knew, I was with a deranged psychopath or something."

She says about 15 years ago, the state sent a letter to her parents' house saying that she owed the $35 ticket. Rush refused to pay it.

She says she was surprised to get a letter a few days ago saying a debt collection agency was trying to get the money.

"I've almost considered driving down there just to talk to a judge and tell him how absolutely ridiculous this is, and what a waste of taxpayer money. Again, this has been for 15 years. I mean, I can't imagine the postage that they've paid on following me around trying to get this $35," Rush said.

West Des Moines lawyer Mark Pennington says if she doesn't pay the fine, she can expect the letter to keep coming. There's no statue of limitation on these fines.

"Well, if you have an unpaid fine, it's not going to go away. It's going to be there until you pay it," Pennington said. "And if it's there, they'll eventually try and get it. Sometimes they don't, but sometimes they do."

For Iowa residents, the debt collection agency can withhold state taxes or the state can refuse to renew your vehicle registration.

Since Rush is a Minnesota resident, the only real action the state can take is to issue an arrest warrant.

Pennington says if it was him, he would just pay the ticket and be done with it. But Rush says that's not going to happen.

"I told them I'm going to let them keep sending me mail and wasting more money because I'm not paying it," Rush said.

In 2017, Iowa's third party collection agency tried to collect about $37 million in unpaid fines, but they only took in about $13 million.
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