Rebecca Bloomfield of Sandy Springs said she had no idea the registration on her BMW sedan had been suspended until a police officer pulled her over earlier this summer.
It turns out the State Road and Tollway Authority had petitioned an administrative judge to suspend Bloomfield's registration after she failed to pay several violation notices Bloomfield maintained she never received. And SRTA can't prove she did.
In fact, a CBS46 investigation found that SRTA has no proof anyone it fines or pursues court action against actually received the violation or court notices.
"A government agency can take you to court without you knowing about it. That's disturbing to me," said Bloomfield.
A number of individuals on the state's list of top offenders told CBS46 investigative reporter Jeff Chirico that they had no idea they had outstanding fines. A high-ranking Board of Regents employee who owed over $15,000 in fines told Chirico she had never received violation notices from SRTA and didn't know of the fines until Chirico told her.
In 2008, the state Legislature, concerned about drivers' rights, passed a bill requiring cities that operate red light cameras send second notices of an unpaid violation by certified mail with a signed return receipt. According to the law's sponsor, it was intended to ensure motorists knew of the violation before the unpaid fine was passed on to a collection agency.
But the law doesn't apply to the Tollway Authority which sends violations by first class mail, not certified.
SRTA Executive Director Bert Brantley said of the 40,000 violation notices the authority sent by first class mail last year, approximately 7,000 went unanswered. Brantley insisted the recipients received them although he admitted he doesn't have evidence of that.
"Its absolutely a fundamental aspect of our legal system that you are properly notified of the allegations against you and any court proceedings you are supposed to attend to," said attorney Ray Giudice. "Failure to provide notice can cancel a lawsuit."
Giudice said the current rules establishing how SRTA sends notices doesn't fully protect individual's right to due process.
Brantley said SRTA had previously sent notices by certified mail and found it wasn't any more effective in reaching violators than the colored envelopes it now uses.
Brantley said SRTA sends final notices in bright red envelopes to "shock" violators into paying attention.
"We made a determination that for the expense, we weren't getting the value back in terms of getting people to sign for them," said Brantley who couldn't provide Chirico with any data to support the claim, calling the evidence "anecdotal."
If SRTA had sent certified notices in the 46 cases it took to court last year, the cost would have been approximately $298.
Bloomfield said she believes SRTA shouldn't be as concerned about the cost as much as protecting people's right to due process.
"There needs to be something in place and a law needs to be changed," said Bloomfield, who has contacted lawmakers about this issue.
Brantley pointed out that other state agencies rely on first class mail to send notices of violations and other important information.
Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.