HAMILTON COUNTY, Iowa - Minnesotan Amy Rush is now in her 40s. Back in 1990 she was a runaway, hitching a ride with an older man through Hamilton County. The man got pulled over for speeding, and she got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt.
Twenty-nine years later she says the state is still trying to collect. However, she says she’s not paying up. Rush says looking back on it, the seat belt shouldn’t have been the officer’s first concern.
“I was a runaway, the officer that pulled us over and not only did he not see an ID or license from me, but never inquired more about me at all. For all they knew I was with a deranged psychopath or something,” Rush told WHO.
She says about 15 years ago the state sent a letter to her parents' house saying she owed the $35 for the ticket. Back then, she decided she wasn’t going to pay. Now, living just outside St. Paul, Rush says she was surprised to get a letter few days ago saying a debt collection agency was trying to get the money.
“I've almost considered driving down there the two-and-a-half hours to talk to a judge to tell him how absolutely ridiculous this is and what a waste of taxpayer money this has been for the 15 years. I can't imagine the postage they've paid on following me around trying to get this $35,” said Rush.
West Des Moines lawyer Mark Pennington says if she doesn't pay, she can expect the letters to keep coming. There's no statute of limitations on these kinds of fines.
“Well if you have an unpaid fine it's not going to go away; it's going to be there until you pay it. If it's there they'll eventually try and get it, sometimes they don’t but sometimes they do,” said Pennington.
For Iowa residents the debt collection agency can withhold state taxes or the state can refuse to renew your vehicle registration. Since Rush is a Minnesota resident, the only real action the state can take is to issue an arrest warrant. Pennington says if it was him, he would just pay the ticket and be done with it. Rush says that's not going to happen.
“I told them they can keep sending me mail and wasting more money because I'm not paying it,” said Rush.
The Iowa Judicial System says Rush can come to Hamilton County to speak with the magistrate and ask that they forgive the ticket.
If she doesn’t, Iowa requires a third-party debt collector to continue to try and collect. If she doesn't pay, she won’t be alone. In 2017 the state's third party collection agency tried to collect about $37 million of outstanding debt; they were able to collect about $13 million of that.