The Investigators: Ticket to Nowhere - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Ticket to Nowhere

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC TV) - It was like dealing with the phone company. Or maybe a certain cable company.

But Amy Pratt was dealing with Shelby County government - and getting nowhere.

"The number was disconnected," she said. "The web address didn't exist."

Her little speeding ticket revealed Shelby County sheriff's deputies have issued an untold number of traffic tickets with the wrong number and web address for Shelby County's General Sessions Court Clerk's Office.

July 9, a sheriff's deputy pulled Pratt over at the intersection of Macon Rd. and Reid Hooker Rd. near Fisherville. He issued her a speeding violation for driving 48 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone.

"He circled on the back of my ticket (the number to call) to find out what you need to do," she said.

She and The Action News 5 Investigators called the number:  901-545-5100. We received the familiar announcement that it had been disconnected and was no longer in service.

We also surfed the web site listed on the ticket for the clerk's office.

"The site doesn't exist," Pratt said.

Chip Washington, spokesperson for the sheriff's department, said some deputies are using old ticket books, even though the court changed its phone and web contacts eight months ago.

He said the department has ordered new ticket books with updated court information, but until they arrive, the department has given clear instructions to its deputies about the old tickets.

"(They're) supposed to cross it off, then put the new number down," said Washington. "In this case, the officer just overlooked that fact."

Washington said he did not know how many tickets have been issued with the erroneous court information.

William Stovall, CAO of the clerk's office, said the county changed the office's ticket contact number to 901-222-3500 Nov. 7. 

The updated web address is http://gs4.shelbycountytn.gov/gscvinq/gscr_criminaldivision

Since Nov. 7, Stovall said sheriff's deputies have issued 21,171 traffic citations.

5,769 of those are either outstanding or delinquent, he said.

When we asked Washington if he could say for certain that none of the delinquent tickets were unpaid because people don't know whom to contact, he answered, "I can't say for certain because I am not familiar with the statistics."

Criminal defense attorney Leslie Ballin said the court date on each ticket is enough to pass legal muster for the "where" and "when" to pay a ticket. He said an erroneous court phone number and web address are not legitimate defenses for dropping the violation.

"It could be a defense as to why the person's license should not be revoked, but a defense to the ticket itself, no," Ballin said.

"Of course, I'm going to pay the ticket," Pratt said. "I just thought it was a little funny that I was asked to call the number, and it doesn't work."

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