Grantville judge dismisses $1,590 fine for no decal

Stress caused Linda Ford’s hair to fall out and most likely was the reason she was injured at work as she dealt with being on probation and making monthly payments on a $1,590 fine for not putting a decal on her license plate.

"It does something to you on the inside," Ford, a 52-year-old baggage handler at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, said after learning a Grantville Municipal Court judge had cancelled her probation as well as the fine levied in February. "I was shamed. People at work knew….I was so stressed."

Even as her hair fell out, she injured herself at work. “It was clearly my fault because I wasn’t focused,” she said. “My mind wasn’t clear. I was lifting something and not paying attention to what I was doing and hurt my back.”

Then on Tuesday, Grantville Municipal Court Judge Lisa Reeves reversed her decision from four months ago and signed an order to close the case, six days after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the extraordinarily high traffic fine she levied for failing to put a tax decal on her license plate.

A Grantville police officer pulled over Ford last September because he said the tint on her license plate was too dark. It was only dirty.

It was then he noticed there was no current decal affixed to her plate.

Ford fetched the decal from her glove box, where she had put it while the car was in shop and then forgotten about it. But the officer’s records show her registration was suspended. He said she could discuss that with the judge.

Regardless of proof, Reeves initially fined Ford in December $720. Reeves increased the fine to $1,590 when Ford could not pay all of it, as she promised, two months later.

It was later learned the county’s car registration records were not accurate.

On Tuesday, Reeves closed the case, releasing Ford from the debt that would have eventually cost her $1,722 once she paid the $1,590 fine and the added fees .

“It’s a problem that we see in city courts all over the state,” said Sarah Geraghty, a Southern Center for Human Rights attorney who notified Reeves Tuesday morning that she now represented Ford. “These are the courts that most people will have some interaction with and when they see that money is the primary focus, it really undermines the integrity of the courts and it makes people lose faith in their local systems of justice.”