The family of a 72-year-old woman with dementia is angry today after she was arrested and held in jail for over an hour because of an old unpaid seat belt ticket.
According to East Moline, Ill., police records, Carol Fulscher was checked into jail at 10:39 p.m. on Dec. 21, 2013. Her son arrived 90 minutes later and paid her $242 bail fee. She will still have to appear in court soon for the original citation.
So how did an elderly woman end up in the company of police in the first place? A concerned friend of Fulscher’s called the East Moline police department to check on her. The friend hadn’t heard from Fulscher for some time and wanted to make sure she was okay.
When police arrived at Fulscher’s house, they found her at ease inside her home. As a matter of policy, they ran a quick identification check on her. That’s when a five-year-old unpaid seat belt citation showed up.
“They said, ‘You got a warrant,’” Fulscher told WQAD. “A warrant? A warrant for what?”
When she couldn’t pay the ticket on the spot, she was arrested and brought into jail.
After the story was reported, East Moline Police Chief Victor Moreno told news outlets that his officers had no choice but to arrest the woman for her outstanding warrant.
“What happens when someone’s issued a ticket, and what happened in this case, either she did not appear for the ticket in court or she did not pay the fine that goes along with it,” Moreno said. “So, when that happens, an arrest issue is made by the court, signed by the judge and that arrest warrant is an order by the judge.”
Her family is now calling for a change in that law that would grant officers the ability to use discretion and decide whether an arrest is necessary in unique situations like Fulscher’s.
“I was so angry, I was just angry at the procedure,” Fulscher’s daughter Jeanette Byrd said. “We need to not have this happen to another elderly person, because I’m sure there’s somebody else that has an unpaid parking ticket or something that needs to be taken care of, and they need to do that, but we need to not treat them the same as you would the common criminal.”