In March 2010, Lauren Morosoff packed her stuff into her 2008 Scion TC and moved from Kendall Park to Colorado for a job opportunity.
Unsure of how long she’d stay in Colorado, the 27-year-old kept her New Jersey driver’s license and license plates.
So when she received a red-light ticket from Edison dated August 2011, she knew there must be a mistake. Her car hadn’t been in New Jersey for 18 months.
“When I first got the ticket, I thought it was hilarious. I honestly laughed out loud when I saw it,” she said.
Morosoff called Edison Township.
“I dealt with one of the most rude individuals ever,” she said. “She laughed at me and said that I need to pay and it’s not that much money and to stop lying to her. It ended in her actually yelling at me and hanging up on me.”
Lauren Morosoff’s mom, Terri Morosoff, still lives in New Jersey and tried to help.
Terri Morosoff called Edison a week later and spoke to a different rep, who offered to mail paperwork to Lauren so she could dispute the ticket. When the paperwork was received, the prosecutor would review the ticket photo, get a better view of the plates and the case would be closed, Terri Morosoff said she was told.
Lauren Morosoff mailed the forms back before her court date.
“We never heard anything from Edison Township, so we assumed the prosecutor had done as we were told and that they reissued the ticket to the driver of the correct car,” Terri Morosoff said.
Fast forward to a year later. Lauren received a notice from the Motor Vehicle Commission that her driving privileges were revoked because she failed to appear in court.
To get her license back, she would have to pay a restoration fee of $100.
Terri Morosoff called MVC.
“I explained that (Lauren) no longer has a New Jersey license because she lives in Colorado, but they stated that the suspension is nationwide and she could not drive anywhere in the U.S.,” Terri Morosoff said.
The rep said that if Edison agreed there was an error, the township would report back to MVC and the suspension would be lifted.
So Terri Morosoff called Edison, which said its records showed Lauren’s license was suspended for “failure to appear.”
Morosoff explained that Lauren pleaded not guilty by mail a year ago, but Edison said it didn’t have it in its records. It said it would look further.
“They called back and said that there was an error and they had received my daughter’s not guilty plea, but that the papers had been misplaced and were never submitted to the judge,” Terri Morosoff said. “The rep said the prosecutor would be given all the info and things should be cleared up.”
Terri Morosoff called the MVC the following week to see if the issue was resolved. Nope, and now the fine was up to $200.
She said she called Edison again, leaving several messages, and when she finally got through to a rep, she was told the ticket still needed to be presented to a judge. And, interestingly, Edison’s records didn’t show a license suspension.
“She confirmed that her system was up to date, so the suspension should not be an issue,” Terri Morosoff said. “Then on Aug. 17, my daughter received another notice from MVC, which stated that because she didn’t pay the fee, her license still wasn’t restored.”
Once again Terri Morosoff called Edison, which said a court date was set for Aug. 27. Lauren would receive a letter about a week later with the judge’s determination.
By Sept. 12, no letter had arrived, so Terri Morosoff called again, only to learn the case had been rescheduled for that day.
When Morosoff called that afternoon for an update, she was told the case would have to be rescheduled yet again.
“We are so frustrated. At this time, I don’t even know if my daughter should be driving, but we don’t want to pay a fine for something that she didn’t do,” she said, and she asked for Bamboozled to help.
We reviewed the ticket, and the numbers on the photographed license plate are quite blurry.
We also compared the ticket photos to online photos of the 2008 Scion, and based on the shape of the tail lights and the rear of the car, they look like different vehicles.
We took it to several automotive experts. They said the car photographed for the ticket has tail lights that are made of two parts — one that’s built into the trunk, and the other, the rear quarter panel. The 2008 Scion, though, doesn’t have a trunk, but a lift-gate, and it has a one-piece tail light that’s built into the quarter panel.
They said the photo could be of an Avalon or a Lexus, which both have two-piece tail lights, but not a Scion.
We reached out to MVC and spokesman Michael Horan said there’s nothing the agency can do until it receives notification from Edison to lift the suspension.
He recommended Morosoff get a letter from the township stating that the suspension was an error so that she doesn’t get stuck with the restoration fee.
We left several messages for Edison, and a couple of days passed without a response.
Then, on Sept. 20, we received an e-mail from Terri Morosoff.
She had just received a voice mail from Edison, which said the judge found Lauren guilty.
“This is just insane,” she wrote, adding that she called Edison to find out how to appeal, but no one answered.
Morosoff said the ticket amounts are $81 and $33 in court costs, plus there’s the MVC restoration fee.
“Even though the amount wouldn’t kill us to pay, it’s just WRONG to have to pay for something where they made an error,” she wrote.
We called Edison.
Court administrator Kelly Sommer confirmed the guilty verdict, but said Morosoff has the right to appeal.
Sommer said she’d send the paperwork to both mother and daughter.
The good news, Sommer reported, is that Edison faxed a letter on Aug. 16 to MVC with instructions to lift the suspension, and Sommer had confirmation that the fax was received.
But we called MVC last month, and it still had the suspension on record.
We called MVC again, and this time, it said the suspension was lifted.
Then, the plot thickened again.
Lauren Morosoff received a summons in the mail on Sept. 20. The notification, postmarked Sept. 19, said her court date was set for that same day — Sept. 19.
“That’s how poorly Edison Township is run,” Terri Morosoff said. “Is this their way of making sure no one shows up? By notifying them after the fact?”
The Morosoffs, ready for a fight, were eager to receive the appeal documents and they started to collect evidence of Lauren’s innocence.
Lauren got a timecard from her employer, reviewed by Bamboozled, that showed she was at work on the date of the red-light ticket.
She also planned to go to the car dealer where she bought a new car — nearly a year ago — to ask for a letter confirming that both N.J. plates were on her Scion when she traded it in.
But a few days later, the Morosoffs had a change of heart — not because they felt they were wrong — but because of pure economics.
The cost to file an appeal is $75, plus transcription fees, and they’d have added costs to send the documents “certified mail.”
“It seems like Lauren might have to appear in court and with the cost of airfare over $400 and the time she’d have to miss from work, it’s not financially feasible,” Morosoff said. “I suppose she could hire a lawyer to represent her, but I can’t imagine what his fees would be.”
Simply paying the fines would be far less costly, unless an attorney would take her case pro bono.
“This really eliminates any faith I had in our judicial system,” Terri Morosoff said.
“We cannot even trust our own state to do the right thing. I feel very sorry for all New Jersey and non-New Jersey drivers out there,” she said.
“Who knows how many others have received bogus tickets and were forced to pay them?”