Woman sues over arrest related to $2 ticket

Friday, January 2, 2004

CENTRALIA, Mo. -- A Centralia woman arrested for failing to pay a $2 parking ticket has joined her husband in filing a federal civil-rights lawsuit against police officers in this town north of Columbia, along with other city officials and the municipality itself.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City by Ann and Eric Robinette, seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages.

The flap dates to April 13, when Ann Robinette parked her 1995 Mazda outside Centralia's community center, where she had rented a room for a friend's bridal shower. That's where, the lawsuit charges, an officer issued a $2 ticket for being parked in a spot reserved for police.

When the woman missed her May 12 court date, an arrest warrant was issued. And just after 1 a.m. on June 7, the officer who wrote the ticket and a colleague went to the Robinettes' house to serve the warrant.

Ann Robinette worried then that someone was hurt or a relative had died.

"I remember the horrified feeling, from knowing that no one was hurt or dead to being arrested for a parking ticket," said Robinette, a University of Missouri-Columbia nurse and graduate student.

Robinette said she was taken to the police station to be booked before her husband arrived and paid her $35 bail. But police found that Eric Robinette also had parked in a spot reserved for patrol cars, so they issued another ticket and had the car towed, forcing the Robinettes to walk several blocks home.

In September, the city attorney dismissed the tickets against both Robinettes. Stephen Wyse, an attorney representing the couple, said the city had little choice because it had never adopted an ordinance establishing the zone for police parking only.

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