Letters Warn Louisiana Drivers of Fines for Lapsed Insurance

October 22, 2015

The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles has issued a mass mailing of 1.2 million letters to drivers with lapsed insurance, warning them a collections agency might be deployed if fines of up to $525 go unpaid.

The Advocate reports the state is hoping to collect $444 million in outstanding debts.

The mail blast is the first effort by the OMV to capitalize on a new provision of a law allowing the department to collect money through the 2-year-old Office of Debt Recovery, the state’s collection agency of sorts, said Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, who authored the new part of the measure this year.

But the flood of letters is being derided by recipients as a money grab by a state thirsty for dollars. Some drivers feel they’re being shaken down for trivial paperwork issues from as far back as 29 years ago that they were never notified about until now.

“It’s kind of threatening. This is an administrative oversight from 11 years ago,” said Brandon Friedman, a 37-year-old Army veteran who moved away from Louisiana in 2004. The Virginia resident said he got a notice — the first of its kind — at his parents’ Shreveport home demanding $525 for an insurance interruption on a vehicle he claims he lawfully reregistered in a new state.

Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the State Police, which oversees the OMV, said the solicitations are an honest effort to recoup liabilities owed. Some drivers, he said, knowingly allow their auto insurance to expire and continue to drive in Louisiana, which isn’t allowed. Until now, the OMV didn’t have a way of collecting the money through the Office of Debt Recovery, he said.

“If we didn’t do anything, people wouldn’t pay anything,” he said. Even though some penalties arise from infractions as far back as 1986, the debt doesn’t disappear, he said.

Friedman said he’d react differently if the letter were phrased as a request for missing documentation, rather than a collections notice.

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