With sights set on recovering nearly $444 million of outstanding debt, the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) warned more than 1.2 million current and former residents that they could be on the hook for years-old fines.
The agency sent out a letter blast last week informing the recipients that a “flag” had been detected on their license, due to insurance complications—some of which date as far back as 1986. A debt collector could be deployed, the letters said, if a fine of up to $525 goes unpaid.
The OMV dispatch goes on to explain that the recipients now have 60 days to:
- Pay their fine.
- Submit either proof of current car insurance OR proof of vehicle disposition.
- e. Documents showing the car was sold, traded, or junked.
Recipients were also given instructions on how to pay the debt, including a list of acceptable credit cards.
The letters represent a first official notice to recipients, and the state will not be able to resort to collections until two additional notices have been deployed—which will happen over the course of the next 60 days, according to State Police spokesman Lt. J.B. Slaton, who answered questions on the matter on behalf of LA OMV Commissioner Stephen Campbell.
Slaton also said the penalties could be cancelled if drivers are able to provide documentation demonstrating a legitimate reason for the insurance coverage lapse.
The move to cash in by the Office of Motor Vehicles comes in the wake of tweaked legislation in the Pelican State allowing for the agency to collect money through the Louisiana Office of Debt Recovery, a group formed by the cash-strapped state two years ago.
While it was initially reported that nearly half of Louisiana’s 2.96 million drivers would be affected by the notices, Slaton denied the figure, saying some residents received more than one letter.
Still, recipients have become increasingly vocal in their dissatisfaction with the letters, with many saying they feel threatened or can no longer prove their case.
Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police, which oversees the OMV, has said that the initiative is not meant to harm residents, but simply a way for the state to recoup the money that it is owed. He mentioned that driving with expired insurance has always been illegal in Louisiana, but the Office of Motor Vehicles has only recently been allowed to collect those fines through the state’s official debt recovery arm.
To avoid confusion in the future, police spokesman Slaton advised residents to mail their old LA license plates to the OMV once they’re no longer in use.
UPDATE (October 28, 2015): In preparation of the response to these letters, the OMV will extend hours at the following OMV facilities:
- Baton Rouge.
- Lake Charles.
- New Orleans.