Wednesday, April 24, 2013

“Day in court” for appeals of SR 520 toll penalties

Nearly one in five drivers crossing the State Route 520 bridge over Lake Washington lacks the pre-purchased windshield transponder that is "read" by electronic sensors so that the toll amount can be deducted from a prepaid or online account. For those 20 percent, cameras photograph the vehicle license plate and then mail a bill for the toll to the owner. Late payment of the toll triggers penalties: $5 for a 15-day delay, another $40 for an 80-day delay – for each crossing.

Some drivers have complained that they got slapped with the penalties, but never got the bill in the mail in the first place – maybe because they moved, were in the hospital, got divorced or for other understandable reasons. But no matter how legitimate the excuse, they've been out of luck: The judges in the state's "toll court" lack the authority to reduce or waive the penalties if the underlying toll was correctly assessed.

But that would change under a bill by Rep. Cyrus Habib that gives penalized drivers who think they've been wronged a chance to make their case – and gives judges the power to cut the drivers some slack if the argument is convincing. House Bill 1941 received final legislative approval April 23 and is on its way to the governor. Click here to read more about it.