To the editor:
Your readers, who might contemplate visiting Florida to escape winter conditions in Saranac Lake, should know that the government of that state is not always friendly to visitors. It has caused serious problems for one New York state visitor while collecting a fee multiple times, even though it was paid promptly.
The treatment of one of our local disabled senior citizens, a 68-year-old New York state civil service employee who was involved in a minor automobile accident in Florida, should make New Yorkers think twice about vacationing in Florida.
As the result of a minor automobile accident, the elderly lady was required to pay a fine, which she did. She was also required to take a remedial driving course and pay a $23 fee. However, because she forgot to bring her wallet and a credit card was not acceptable, she was unable to pay the fee, but a friend who drove her to the class and picked her up afterward did pay the fee for her in cash. Months later, the state of Florida sent her a letter stating that because she had not paid the fee for the driving course, she was required to turn in her driver's license to authorities in Elizabethtown or pay the fee plus penalties.
Senator Little's office told her that Florida had caused problems for other New Yorkers and suggested that she pay the $43 bill, and she did. But this was not enough for the state of Florida; they presented a third bill for $53, which she also paid. Subsequently the clerk of the court in St. Petersburg, Fla., sent her a notice claiming that she had failed to pay the fine, failed to appear in court, failed to attend the court ordered school, failed to complete the court-ordered school and that her driving privileges would not be reinstated until his notice was presented to a driver license examining office.
The climate in Florida is very pleasant, especially in the winter, but this story indicates that treatment of visitors by Florida legal authorities leaves something to be desired. It should also be noted that Florida has an interesting law called the Baker Act, which makes it easy for authorities to imprison visitors with emotional problems and, by limiting payments for their lawyers, hard for them to regain their freedom.