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Don’t Want Toll Booth Delay? Don’t Pay with Big Bills, Says 11th Circuit

Posted Sep 21, 2012 11:35 AM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Video from Tampa Bay 10 News.

A Florida policy which mandates that a car must wait while toll booth operators collect driver information when someone pays with large bills does not amount to improper detention, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week.

To discourage drivers from paying tolls with large bills, when the driver does so the Florida Department of Transportation requires toll booth operators to get information about the person’s vehicle and tag number before the car can drive on, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. The 2010 policy was implemented to discourage drivers from paying with counterfeit bills.

Joel Chandler, his wife, Deborah, and his brother Robert filed the case against the state and a contractor who runs the toll booths. Tampa Bay’s 10 News previously featured a video of Joel Chandler attempting to pay a $1 toll with a $100 bill. In an interview with the station, he described the policy as a “serious, serious legal offense,” to detain someone without legal authority.

The Sept. 19 opinion (PDF) overturns a Tampa U.S. District Court ruling that denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case. The panel notes that the Chandlers had multiple choices to avoid toll booth detentions.

“In sum, the Chandlers chose to enter the turnpike. They consented to pay whatever the toll was. They had no legal right to pay this toll however they pleased and immediately enter the turnpike,” the 11th Circuit Panel wrote. “They chose to pay the toll by tendering a large-denomination bill. They implicitly consented to the delay caused by tendering payment in this way.”

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