20% of all parking tickets issued over the last 5 years went unpaid, state records show

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Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 4:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - One out of every five parking tickets issued in Hawaii over the last five years has gone unpaid, Hawaii News Now has learned.

That amounts to nearly $11 million in uncollected fines, state records show.

The top offenders for unpaid fines are rental car companies. Thousands more tickets can’t be traced to anyone at all because of data entry mistakes, bad handwriting and other issues.

The revelation comes as the state scrambles to address a massive fiscal crisis. The millions in unpaid fines should be in the state’s general fund. Instead, it’s likely much of it will remain uncollected.

When parking in town, Reggie Cui knows it’s best to feed the meter and always pay attention to the signs. It could get expensive if you don’t.

One Friday, he was hit with the cost of a ticket and a tow for parking on Ala Wai Boulevard when he wasn’t supposed to. “We had to pay,” Cui said. “Over $200.”

But records show there’s a long history of people not paying what they owe.

According to State Judiciary data, there were nearly 780,000 parking tickets issued in the state between January 2015 and August 2020. Of those, approximately 172,000 went unpaid.

In fact, HNN learned, tens of thousands of dollars is owed by a handful of companies.

Official documents show EAN Holdings, also known as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, owes more than $32,000 in unpaid parking tickets. Hertz Vehicles owes $23,860.

And there’s another $40,335 that’s outstanding from other local rental car companies.

By far the most troubling figure, however, is the $7 million worth of unpaid tickets the state can’t link to anyone. State Judiciary officials say it happens when the information on the ticket doesn’t match registration records at county motor vehicle departments.

Bad handwriting, typos, or switched license plates are all to blame.

State Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson said it’s past time for the state to “figure out a better system.”

He said the number of mistakes is inexcusable and says with today’s technology, the practices the state is using to collect fines shouldn’t be making the problem worse.

“That’s money the state needs to be actively going after,” Johanson said.

As for recouping fines from visitors driving rentals, he said he’s considering legislation that would ensure companies are notified immediately when a ticket is issued.

“Shoring up that link so they can get the information faster and they can bill the offending rental car user,” he said. Unlike some states, Hawaii does not allow rental companies to transfer liability to those responsible for the traffic fine. That means the companies are stuck with the fine.

In a statement, an Enterprise spokesperson said “more communication” is vital “to avoid any missed or overdue balances.” The company also said it had no idea it owed more than $30,000 in fines.

Enterprise is now in the process of paying its unpaid tickets, the spokesperson said.

HNN also reached out to Hertz multiple times about why it has more that $23,000 in outstanding fines. A company spokesperson said they were looking into the issue, but didn’t respond to other questions.

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