Pennsylvania man trying to pay traffic fine with coins is rebuffed

A Pennsylvania man does not dispute the traffic ticket he received on Dec. 19. In fact, he went to the city treasurer's office in Lancaster that day to pay the $20 fine.

>> Read more trending stories

But when Alfredo Santiago tried to pay with a bag of loose change, the clerk refused to take it — and the 34-year-old says that's against the law.

“The lady didn’t want to count it up, so she wouldn’t take my ticket,” Santiago told Lancaster Online. “You can’t refuse me just because you don’t want to be inconvenienced.”
Santiago said there was no sign forbidding payment with coins, although he said one was posted in the time since he attempted to make his payment. He said the clerk told him he had to roll the coins.

“I asked her to show me the policy, and she went to get a police officer,” Santiago told Lancaster Online. “But she did not produce a policy.”
Santiago said he left without paying the fine. He later called the mayor’s office and eventually spoke with Patrick Hopkins, Lancaster’s director of administrative services. Santiago told Lancaster Online that Hopkins said there was no policy, but “it’s a common sense thing.”
The Coinage Act of 1965 states that United States coins and currency “are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.” Hopkins told Lancaster Online that he agreed that “coins are legal tender” and said there’s no written policy stating otherwise.
“But that doesn’t mean merchants, or anybody else who accepts coins for payment has to sit there and count out $20 worth of coins,” he said. “That’s not the city’s responsibility.”
Santiago said he could have paid with a credit card, but refused because it “became a matter of principle.” If he doesn’t pay the ticket within 15 days of its issuance, the fine will increase to $30. If he continues to withhold payment, his case could end up with a local magisterial district judge.
“I did this out of frustration,” Santiago told Lancaster Online, “but my point is, it’s still a valid form of payment.”
“He was upset. Everyone understands that,” Hopkins said. “No one likes getting a parking ticket. But that doesn’t mean he should take it out on the clerk.”

About the Author