dont know if anyone here has received any toll tag notices in the mail sent via the CTRMA (Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority). This is the public entity that is a sub-entity of TxDOT that runs the Austin toll roads. turns out they subcontract two of their services to private entities.
One private entity is TxTag, a private company that sells the toll tags for CTRMA. A second private entity, MSB Government Services, is a private collection agency.
If you go through a tollroad checkpoint and your toll tag isn't read (either by their error or by the fact that you don't have a tag) they shoot a photo of your rear license plate. they go through TxTag membership databases to see if you have a TxTag on file and if so they simply deduct it out of your account provided you have money in it.
if you don't have money in your account or if you dont have a TxTag then TxTag forwards your bill to MSB Government Services. MSB Government Services earns $1 for every bill they send and get payment for (if you notice there is a $1 processing fee attached). if you don't pay the bill then they send you another bill and add on a $15 late fee. another month goes by and another $15, and then another month it jumps to another $30. So you can accrue $60 in late fees over 3 months time for one measly toll tag violation.
here is the kicker. on the "final" third late fee violation, MSB Government Services mails you a letter saying that if you don't pay, they will refer the case to the Williamson County Attorney's office for "prosecution." that infers that they will get a warrant for your arrest and/or you will face criminal charges for failing to pay their late fees and the original toll. but they will also admit on the phone that they are a private collection agency. so under what authority does a private collection agency have to get a warrant for your arrest for non-payment of a late fee? i called them and spoke to a supervisor named Billy. Billy, who was very understanding of the law, understood that his company has absolutely no authority to file criminal charges. further he was nice enough to remove all of the late fees i had called about upon me proving that TxTag screwed up and i had a valid TxTag on that date with $40 in my account when they tried to jam me $63.40 for a $3.40 toll ($60 in late fees).
i told them that they are skating on thin ice using the word "prosecution" which makes people pay them because they are afraid that Williamson County will issue a warrant for their arrest. a private collection agency cannot masquerade itself as a government entity demanding payment without due process.
there is no way that i know of that you can go to a court of law to challenge non-payment of a toll.
Trying to think this through. Would a Theft of Service charge be their angle? Let's say they have evidence of the violation (photos, TxTag scan, etc.), and they are among the designated, legal representatives (agents) of the toll road owner/authority. It wouldn't collect their fees, but it'd cause you a hassle and more $$$ than the fees probably, no to mention going on your legal record. And they'd probably still be on your back.
Sec. 31.01. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
(6) "Service" includes:
(A) labor and professional service;
(B) telecommunication, public utility, or transportation service;
(C) lodging, restaurant service, and entertainment; and
(D) the supply of a motor vehicle or other property for use.
Sec. 31.04. THEFT OF SERVICE.
(a) A person commits theft of service if, with intent to avoid payment for service that he knows is provided only for compensation:
(1) he intentionally or knowingly secures performance of the service by deception, threat, or false token;
(2) having control over the disposition of services of another to which he is not entitled, he intentionally or knowingly diverts the other's services to his own benefit or to the benefit of another not entitled to them;
(3) having control of personal property under a written rental agreement, he holds the property beyond the expiration of the rental period without the effective consent of the owner of the property, thereby depriving the owner of the property of its use in further rentals; or
(4) he intentionally or knowingly secures the performance of the service by agreeing to provide compensation and, after the service is rendered, fails to make payment after receiving notice demanding payment.
(b) For purposes of this section, intent to avoid payment is presumed if:
(1) the actor absconded without paying for the service or expressly refused to pay for the service in circumstances where payment is ordinarily made immediately upon rendering of the service, as in hotels, campgrounds, recreational vehicle parks, restaurants, and comparable establishments;
(2) the actor failed to make payment under a service agreement within 10 days after receiving notice demanding payment;
(3) the actor returns property held under a rental agreement after the expiration of the rental agreement and fails to pay the applicable rental charge for the property within 10 days after the date on which the actor received notice demanding payment; or
(4) the actor failed to return the property held under a rental agreement:
(A) within five days after receiving notice demanding return, if the property is valued at less than $1,500; or
(B) within three days after receiving notice demanding return, if the property is valued at $1,500 or more.
(c) For purposes of Subsections (a)(4), (b)(2), and (b)(4), notice shall be notice in writing, sent by registered or certified mail with return receipt requested or by telegram with report of delivery requested, and addressed to the actor at his address shown on the rental agreement or service agreement.
(d) If written notice is given in accordance with Subsection (c), it is presumed that the notice was received no later than five days after it was sent.
(e) An offense under this section is:
(1) a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the service stolen is less than $20;
(2) a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the service stolen is $20 or more but less than $500;
(3) a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the service stolen is $500 or more but less than $1,500;
(4) a state jail felony if the value of the service stolen is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000;
(5) a felony of the third degree if the value of the service stolen is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000;
(6) a felony of the second degree if the value of the service stolen is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or
(7) a felony of the first degree if the value of the service stolen is $200,000 or more.
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, any police or other report of stolen vehicles by a political subdivision of this state shall include on the report any rental vehicles whose renters have been shown to such reporting agency to be in violation of Subsection (b)(2) and shall indicate that the renting agency has complied with the notice requirements demanding return as provided in this section.
(g) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1) the defendant secured the performance of the service by giving a post-dated check or similar sight order to the person performing the service; and
(2) the person performing the service or any other person presented the check or sight order for payment before the date on the check or sight order.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1977, 65th Leg., p. 1138, ch. 429, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 29, 1977; Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 2920, ch. 497, Sec. 4, eff. Sept. 1, 1983; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 565, Sec. 15, eff. Sept. 1, 1991; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 479, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 28, 1995; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 843, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1245, Sec. 1, 2, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 419, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.
its not theft of service, there is actually a specific Transportation Code Section that address payment of tolls. so what i argued to them was that while i am responsible for paying the tolls, the fact that i had a valid TxTag with money in the account at the time of the alleged offense, would show that i had no intention to eviade payment of the toll. i think a jury could figure that out. they had access to my account and they could just take money out of it, but instead, by their own error, tried to nail me for more money.
criminally speaking, there is no intent for me to evade payment of the toll when i had a valid TxTag with money in my account. how would i be able to go through a toll checkpoint and know if they were going to debit my account or not?
also, since they are a private collection agency (aka third party), they do not have the authority to file a theft charge anyway. they have no legal standing to do so. the property taken, so to speak, was not taken from them.
finally, there is an issue of due process. there is no way for anyone to go to a court of law to challenge non-payment of tolls. you can't go to JP Court and demand a trial. basically if they say you owe them money then you must deal with them, like a collection agency.
they have no teeth to do anything to you except take you to civil court and get a judgment against you. the guy i spoke to (supervisor) said they would not even entertain taking you to court for anything less than a few hundred dollars worth. they'd never entertain taking anyone for $63.40, especially when the person had a valid TxTag.
The collection agency owns the debt. They can ding your credit score.
yes they can ding your credit definitely. but that is a far cry from being thrown in jail!
a collection agency has no teeth if your credit is messed up anyway. dinging a guy's credit score for $100 when he owes someone else say $10,000 is peanuts. thus they have no ability to enforce payment.
however, if a collection agency could get a warrant issued for your arrest then they would have a very high percentage of collection. otherwise all they can do is call you to annoy you, mail you junk mail, and ding your credit. but like i said, if a guy's credit is already bad thats the last thing they care about.
Well, you made me look up the statute. Is this the one?: Texas Transportation Code Sec. 366.178 FAILURE OR REFUSAL TO PAY TOLL
Failure/refusal to pay SHALL be handled as a cite for a traffic violation in a court having jurisdiction. The court then MAY collect the fine (up to $250) and court cost. The court SHALL collect toll and toll admin fee. Admin fee may be an additional $100 to the toll.
Toll authority doesn't have a choice regarding prosecution or collection of toll and toll admin fee. Toll authority files with local court, owner receive a summons for a court date. It looks like a legit complainant, prosecution with due process and a collection of tolls/fees. The toll authority is technically breaking the law if they don't prosecute you, and the toll debt collector is notifying you of the prosecution.
yes thats the section. herein lies the problem:
Failure/refusal to pay SHALL be handled as a cite for a traffic violation in a court having jurisdiction.
so where is the due process? if it is handled as a citation for a violation then you have the right to a trial. you cannot receive a citation and then be automatically presumed guilty without a right to a trial. that is a violation of your rights. you have the right to confront your accusers in a court of law.
The court then MAY collect the fine (up to $250) and court cost. The court SHALL collect toll and toll admin fee. Admin fee may be an additional $100 to the toll.
only upon conviction. meaning, they skipped the entire part about due process.
Toll authority files with local court, owner receive a summons for a court date.
that's the problem. the toll authority is not filing with the court. they are instead referring all of their unpaid tolls to a private collections company so as not to bog down the local JP court. the private collections company is in turn threatening to file with the court and has no legal standing to do so. they are using this as a scare tactic to get you to pay them.
and the owner is not receiving a summons for a court date. the owner is receiving a misleading letter stating that the collections company will file a criminal complaint with the county attorney's office, when they have no legal standing to do so. all the private collections company can do legally is sue you in civil court and get a judgment against you (civil, not criminal.) so no court date or summons is actually issued, just a demand for payment. that's the problem!
Does the document you have say they, collector, will be filing, or simply that charges will be filed?
Can you post a copy?
i dont have it here with me but from my recollection they say that they (the private collection company) will "refer the case to Williamson County Attorney's Office for prosecution." the guy on the phone said that once the bill is sent to the collections company the CTRMA washes its hands of it and even refuses to make a phone call to the collection agency to tell them to stop attempting to collect a paid fine, since they have some sort of agreement that does not allow them to intervene on a citizen's behalf once the fine has been referred to collections. i guess this is a way of preventing the CTRMA to avoid meddling in the affairs of the collections company.
seeing that the county attorney's office has no interest in a civil claim, and the word "prosecution" vs. "litigation" is used, it makes the inference that criminal charges would be sought. that is why i called, as i do not believe a private collection company can do this. in fact i told them i was going to refer this to the A/G's office and then the guy backpedaled and offered to remove all of the charges.
the issue is have is that i have a toll tag, they have my toll tag information and money in my account....so they clearly have a way of getting their $3.60. because they chose not to double check, i was falsely accused of failure to pay a toll.
Originally Posted By FN_form:
Does the document you have say they, collector, will be filing, or simply that charges will be filed?
Can you post a copy?
Unfortunately, I have a copy. Here's the bulk of the text (errors mine, though emphasis is theirs):
This account has been selected for possible referral for legal action for upaid tolls.
If your payment for the total due is not received and posted to your account before the due date shown above, we may refer this matter to athe County Attorney in Williamson County, Texas, and you may then be charged with a misdemeaneor which is punishable by a fine of up to $250 per toll violation and assessed additional court and administrative fees.
As either the owner of the vehicle or the person that rented the vehicle listed above, we previously issued multiple Notices of Toll Violation to you for failing to pay a toll(s) on the 183A toll road(s) in Austin, Texas. We have received no response to those notices. Under Texas Transportation Code 370.177 your case is now elligible for referral to the Williamson County Attorney for prosecution.
To avoid possible legal action, call...