Jesse Jones

How one man racked up dozens of parking tickets for a license plate he didn’t even have yet

COVINGTON, Wash. — Jonny Hayes’ jeep has never made it to downtown Seattle. So imagine his surprise when he got two tickets for a lot near the waterfront, in the mail from Republic Parking.

His jeep was never in Kirkland. But the court mailed him a citation.

Same with Kent.

“I’m getting citations now that are threatening to go to collections, and this can ruin your credit and all this,” says Jonny.

See, Jonny is getting tickets for a plate he applied for - but hadn’t yet been sent by the state.

And what word did he want on it? “Unknown.”

And it’s racking up fines left and right.

“So I typed in ‘unknown’ and I think it was 57 tickets from Seattle and three from Portland,” says Jonny. “Tried to contact Republic Parking. Very difficult to get a hold of anyone there. They don’t really have a customer service number.”

We took Jonny’s issue to Nathan Olson from the Department of Licensing.

“We feel bad for him. We really do. It’s unfortunate. It really is,” says Olson. “Parking companies, when they can’t discern the plate name or the plate number, they will put ‘unknown’ on it.”

That’s why Jonny got the tickets. But Nathan still needs to explain how he got them in the first place when the state hadn’t sent the plates yet.

“The plate has to be manufactured specially because you’re asking for something special. And so there’s a lag time,” says Olson.

And during that lag time, “unknown” was placed into the state’s database under Jonny’s name.

“So he was registered to that plate but he didn’t have possession of the plate,” says Olson.

And finally, during that same time, the parking company was apparently on the hunt for the owner of the plate “unknown.” You can understand why: they had a ton of tickets and owed them lots of money!

“And I feel like this is just the start of an avalanche of tickets that are going to get mailed my way,” says Jonny.

So, we called the parking lot company and had Jonny’s tickets tossed.

And then we asked the state to write a letter that Jonny can send to any company or government who issues him a ticket to tell them to back off. And they did!

“Take that letter to any of these companies that have said you owe this money, and there’s no reason - he doesn’t owe the money,” says Olson. “He didn’t park illegally or overstay his welcome in these places so it shouldn’t be his, not his to pay off.”

There’s one more thing the state can do.

“State law prohibits certain plates from being issued - right? - because they’re offensive. You can imagine the words that I’m thinking of,” says Olson.

Yeah. Here’s one: “unknown.”

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