When people fall behind or fail to pay traffic fines, their debt can dramatically increase from the instant that court officials send their delinquent accounts off to collection companies.
Take the case of Natacha Guerra.
On November 3, 2015, she was pulled over for speeding in Miami Dade County and issued a $392 ticket. For three months, the ticket went unpaid except for a small late fee.
But on April 19, according to court records, two things happened: first, county court clerk’s send off the delinquent account to a Texas law firm called Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, a giant in the little known municipal collections industry.
This transfer “automatically inflated” Guerra’s debt to $571.20, according to Guerra’s lawyers, who call the 40-percent collections fee “massive,” “unlawful,” and “unearned.” It’s a fee charged to defendants to pay for the debt collector’s work, but in this case, Guerra paid off the $571.20 on the same day it went to Linebarger, according to court records.
Seeking class action status in their lawsuit on Guerra’s behalf, her attorneys argue the fee fails constitutional muster. By contrast, Florida law deems “criminal usury” annual interest charged at 25-percent or higher, they argue in the complaint, which you can read here: Natacha Guerra v. Linebarger.
In a motion to dismiss (Linebarger Response) Linebarger argues it’s a “fiction” to say the company did nothing to earn its fee, citing, among other things, the amount of money the company invests in collection process overall.
“Linebarger has made a substantial investment in an infrastructure allowing it to move quickly to assist the Clerk in dealing with people who refuse to comply with their financial obligations,” the company says.