RI lawmakers approve changes to unpaid parking ticket law

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 36,000 drivers owe the state of Rhode Island upwards of $200 each in parking tickets, according to Providence City Counselor Luis Aponte. New legislation approved by the General Assembly aims to change that.

In Rhode Island, cities and towns can tell the DMV to block certain people from registering their vehicles in an effort to get them to pay their tickets. Under current law, Rhode Islanders can only be blocked from registering their car if their parking fines surpass $200.

Still, Aponte is concerned that the state could be losing some of that money. The DMV, for instance, charges municipalities a $5 fee in exchange for each blocked registration. In addition, the $200 threshold can’t include late fees or penalties that have been added to previous tickets. In other words, only the face value of the parking tickets counts.

The new law gets rid of the late fee omission and passes the $5 DMV charge onto Rhode Islanders who owe the fines.

While the change may seem small, Aponte said the bill would mean increased revenues for the state, estimated at “a little over $15 million.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU), however, has raised concerns about the proposal.

“Legislation like this has an impact of basically penalizing poor people and making it more difficult for them to have lawfully registered motor vehicles,” Sonya Deyoe of the ACLU said.

Still, Aponte said municipalities can work with Rhode Islanders to help them pay off their tickets.

“Folks could come in, talk to the clerks, establish a payment plan so they wouldn’t be blocked from renewing their registration,” he said.

The bill now heads to Gov. Gina Raimondo, who will either veto the legislation or sign it into law.