A Fine Mess: How To Get Out of Library Late Fees, Tickets

Checking-in books at a libraryGetting out of late-book fines at the library requires a reason. A really good one. "We do allow some negotiation of late fees but only for very extenuating circumstances," Gayle Snible, spokeswoman for the New York Public Library, tells WalletPop.

"Extenuating" can include severe illness, funeral of a close loved one, car accident and any other event that generates true hardship, Snible said. You'll have to provide a "little bit of proof" but Snible didn't specify. In any event, "If [patrons] feel they have a good reason, they should plead their case," she said.We live in grim financial times, and library fees can pile up quickly, but don't expect your local librarian in any city to sob along with your story about going on vacation and just forgetting about that out-of-sight, out-of-mind novel or DVD. "A vacation is not extenuating circumstance," Snible said. "We hope they would renew online."

Snowed in? You won't be charged as long as the library took a snow day. "Our main goal is to make it as easy as possible not have late fees by providing ways to renew," she said.

Many library systems now allow users to renew by Internet, by an automated telephone system or by calling a local branch. There's not as much wiggle room to be late as there use to be. Smooth talking or a heartfelt mea culpa won't net you results like a real obstacle that prevented you from tapping the keyboard to renew or getting to a branch. You can always hope for a late-fee amnesty program like the San Francisco library staged to dismiss all fines if folks returned the books.

Snible offered this simple solution: "We suggest they return material on time."

While we're on the subject, WalletPop looked around for tips for getting out of two other annoying fines, traffic and parking tickets. (This is an overview; check your local jurisdiction for the procedural ins and outs.)

Moving Violations

If you get pulled over, according to beattraffictickets.com and smartmoney.com, work fast, because most cops now log in tickets electronically. Once that's done, there's little you can do. You're either going to have to pay, or have a court date set to argue your case. So, in short, in the moments after you see that flashing red light: Cry if you can (do your Meryl Streep best -- it can work). Pretend you don't know what you did. Ask for a warning. Be super respectful (a few extra "sirs" and "ma'ams" helps; just don't overdo it.) Mention any police friends or associates or even flash a Police Benevolent Association card, some experts advise. If you plan to go to court, plead NOT guilty. Get the officer's notes of your exchange (the police must provide them in most states), gather evidence and fine-tune your defense. Defenses can challenge what the cop says he saw, or perhaps you can provide a legal, legitimate reason for making the alleged illegal move ("I served to avoid a baby carriage.") Sources differ on the old convention that officers don't often show up for hearings. One way to find out is by asking for several continuances to delay the hearing, attorney Mel Leiding tells beattraffictickets.com. He estimates there's a 30% to 50% chance the officer won't show when the appearance finally happens.

Parking Tickets

All the battling to eliminate parking tickets usually happens after you are written up, so be prepared to jump through some legal hoops, according to a how-to published at productdose.com. Take a
picture of a missing no-parking sign, obstructed sign or broken meter that caused you to get the ticket. Inspect the ticket for mistakes. If, for instance, the address or meter number is wrong, you can conceivably argue that the ticket was intended for another person.

Call the ticketing agency and politely and smoothly plead your case. At the very least, someone will look into it. You could have the fine dismissed on the spot. More likely, however, is that the investigator will support the meter maid, and then you can ask for an administrative review. You'll have to pay the fine if you want to continue to fight (it will be refunded if you win the case.) If the review doesn't take, you can then ask for an appeal -- a hearing before a judge. The judge's ruling will stand, so bring your photographic evidence and get your Perry Mason on.
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