Get Gephardt Investigates: Man ordered to pay somebody else's parking fines

KUTV Parking Cottonwood Heights 042017.JPG
Get Gephardt Investigates: Man ordered to pay somebody else's parking fines (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Getting a parking ticket is never fun, but imagine being ordered to pay one even though you didn't do anything wrong.

It happened to a Smithfield man and when he couldn't get anyone to help straighten it out, he decided to Get Gephardt.

James Mitchell doesn't drive a black 2014 Volkswagen Jetta, and he wasn't in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, last November. So, imagine his surprise when he got a letter in the mail saying he's been busted for parking his Jetta illegally in Cottonwood Heights and demanding he pay $25.

Mitchell called to let them know they had the wrong guy, but was told that, if he wants to clear his name, he needed to drive to the city’s justice court and handle it in person.

That's easier said than done. Mitchell lives more than 100 miles away in Smithfield, Utah. After explaining that, no one was willing to fix it over the phone.

“They're going to make me drive down there for a couple hours, meet with them for an hour, and then drive home for a couple hours,” he lamented.

Worse yet, Mitchell said the prosecutor told him he'd need to prove the car cited wasn't his when he arrived. He wonders how he is supposed to do that.

“The burden of proof shouldn't fall on me to prove this vehicle isn't mine,” he said. “I don't want to pay for something that isn't my mistake and then the other guy gets off free.”

Get Gephardt took it to Sgt. Ryan Shosted with the Cottonwood Heights Police Department. He was able to quickly confirm what Mitchell already knew: this was all a big mistake.

"We were able to do research and see that he, in fact, did not own the car that was cited,” Shosted said. "It took me about 60 seconds [to figure that out].”

Shosted said Mitchell’s calls should have been taken more seriously, and it's something the department’s bosses have discussed with everyone involved.

Shosted said part of the skepticism came because they have people call in all the time, lying and claiming a citation they’ve been ordered to pay isn’t their fault. Still, he says that doesn’t justify Mitchell being treated as though he was lying.

“I'm very sorry to him,” Shousted said. “He shouldn't have had to go through that.”

As for Mitchell, he says he’s happy he doesn't have to drive hours out of his way to fix the mistake.