Anne Irwin says her driving record was "squeaky clean" until this summer, and the Halifax woman is upset that the blemish now attached to her name wasn't even her fault.
Nova Scotia's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal acknowledges a clerical error by one of its employees landed Irwin in the situation.
"I don't believe it was intentional, I believe it was a mistake. But the fact is, I now have this fine and this ticket for an unregistered vehicle," she said.
But the department says Irwin's only option to get out of it is to go to court, costing her time and money she's not sure she can spend.
"I still have hope that somehow this can be fixed," she said. "I think in general people are reasonable, and I'm hoping that someone can try to fix this without going to the Supreme Court."
The trouble with Irwin's 2018 Subaru Crosstrek began shortly after she leased it from a dealer in October 2017.
At the time, the leasing paperwork and the registration was done correctly by the dealer and Irwin received copies of the documents.
Nearly two years later, on July 17, 2019, Irwin got pulled over by a Halifax police officer and was issued a fine for driving an unregistered vehicle, which surprised her.
The officer's system showed Irwin's licence plate, but her Subaru was not linked to any plate. He issued her a $180 fine.
At almost the same time, Irwin's licence plate was up for renewal and Access Nova Scotia told her she would have to pay the fine before she could renew her plate.
To make sure her car was legal to drive, she paid the $180 fine and the $176.90 plate renewal fee.
After she paid, she asked Access Nova Scotia to investigate deeper. It discovered the clerical error, which happened just two weeks after she got the car.
"Someone at Service Nova Scotia had accidentally detached my car from my plate, which means that on the police system when they looked it up, my car wasn't registered," said Irwin.
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal issued her a letter that confirmed it made the error and certified it was corrected.
"We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused," the letter concluded.
Service Nova Scotia offered to refund the $176.90 plate renewal fee, but Irwin hasn't accepted because the offer is less than the fine amount, and it doesn't remove the ticket from her record.
In fact, Service Nova Scotia said the only way to erase the ticket is for Irwin to go to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, which Irwin is considering.
Court staff told her it would cost her $225 to schedule a Supreme Court hearing. Irwin said she would have to hire a lawyer or take time off work to represent herself.
"I'm just worried about the time and expense it would cost in order to pursue it," she said.
'An unfortunate error,' says province
Gary Andrea, a spokesperson for the provincial government department responsible for Access Nova Scotia, told CBC News that no one from Access Nova Scotia was available for an interview.
"The office acknowledges that we made an unfortunate error," Andrea wrote by email.
"We did offer a licence plate refund as compensation for the clerical error resulting in the fine. The client must make application to the court to have the ticket reversed."
'It seems like an easy fix,' says Irwin
Irwin isn't happy with that answer and said it's an unnecessary expense for her and taxpayers.
"It seems like inertia. They can't or won't do anything to help fix this," she said.
"It seems like an easy fix. But to have to go to the length of going to the Supreme Court to have this rectified, it seems like overkill."
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