A Caymanian man was arrested, asked to give fingerprints and a DNA sample, and taken to court twice last year, all because of a vehicle that was registered to the wrong person.
Speaking to the Cayman Compass last month, Windell Scott said he hopes his story will become both a cautionary tale for local residents and a learning experience for government officials.
“In a summary of the entire situation, a law abiding citizen with a clean police record was located and arrested for a parking ticket that was for someone else,” Mr. Scott told the Cayman Compass.
In late February 2017, Mr. Scott learned he was a wanted man for parking in a disabled space at the Foster’s Food Fair airport store.
From the Bodden Town resident’s perspective, there were two problems with this situation. First, the vehicle involved did not belong to him – it never had. The second problem was that Mr. Scott’s son, who had been the owner, sold the vehicle involved – a black Toyota Windom – six months before the parking ticket was issued in October 2016.
Nonetheless, Mr. Scott reported to the Bodden Town Police Station on Feb. 27, 2017, and although he did not initially learn any specifics, he was told the ticket had been issued to “his” vehicle.
“Immediately as I heard this, I denied such doing,” Mr. Scott said. “This is something I truly respected [referring to disabled parking spaces] … and [I] would never carry out such an unlawful exercise.”
At the time of the police station visit, Mr. Scott asked questions such as; why had he not been issued the parking ticket? What was the make and model of the vehicle involved in the parking offense? When did this incident take place? He said none of those questions were answered and he left the police station, with officers promising to call him back after they collected more information.
On March 6, 2017, police called Mr. Scott and he agreed to attend the Fairbanks jail facility. He was asked to give fingerprints, a mug shot and a DNA sample as part of “processing” procedures. He refused, and said he was told, in that case, that he immediately needed to attend court, which he agreed to do.
“I was made to feel like my rights were being violated,” he said, although he did add that the police inspector in charge at the jail made a difficult situation bearable. “I thought he handled the situation very professionally; [the inspector] expressed that he had dealt with such situations previously.”
Mr. Scott was allowed to drive his own vehicle to court, with a police escort. Once there, he received a copy of the parking ticket for the first time – which indicated the ticket was issued on Oct. 28, 2016. Mr. Scott’s youngest son, Jason, sold the vehicle to a Jamaican man in April 2016. Records stamped with a date of April 13, 2016, at the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing acknowledge the transfer, but were not signed by the new owner.
Also, Mr. Scott was listed on those transfer papers as the owner of the vehicle, likely because he had purchased it for his son to use. He said he’d never driven or taken possession of the Toyota Windom.
According to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, this is an issue that can arise with delayed transfers, where the seller signs over the vehicle assuming that the new owner will complete the necessary legal form later.
“The law puts the onus on the person selling the vehicle to ensure that registration is completed,” a statement from the RCIPS about Mr. Scott’s case noted. “Failing to do that can result in being held responsible for what occurs with the vehicle afterwards.”
Uncompleted transfers can also hamper police investigations into crimes where the vehicle is used, the RCIPS noted. “We urge all car owners to ensure that vehicle transfer documents are completed with the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing by going to the DVDL offices together.”
While in court on March 6, 2017, Mr. Scott found himself explaining details of his situation to a magistrate. The case was reset for March 21 last year “because I was still responsible for the car at this point,” the Bodden Town man said he was informed.
During the next two weeks, Mr. Scott and some of his relatives hit the streets, trying to track down the Toyota Windom. After a number of fruitless attempts, Mr. Scott said they managed to locate the vehicle and its driver outside Cox Lumber in Bodden Town on March 14. Mr. Scott said he pulled in and blocked the driver from leaving. The driver was taken into custody, according to police, and Mr. Scott and his son were taken to the police station to give statements to the effect that they had seen the man driving the Windom.
“During the course of the day, I received information that the driver had posted bail,” Mr. Scott said, stating that two of his sons again spotted the same black Toyota Windom being driven around town the evening of March 14.
Two days later, Mr. Scott said a family member encountered the same driver in the same vehicle at a Red Bay gas station, where they again blocked him in. The police were called and “took the vehicle away a second time” from the man, Mr. Scott told the Cayman Compass.
A police statement on the arrest incidents confirmed that the man had been taken into custody on the dates given by Mr. Scott and his sons. “On the two occasions that the accused was arrested, he was released on police bail while the investigation was conducted,” the RCIPS statement read. Officers further added that people accused in traffic offenses are usually not kept in custody during the course of those investigations.
Police indicated officers confirmed the Windom was owned by the Jamaican man and that police were unable to keep the vehicle from him as he was the lawful owner. “He was advised that the vehicle would be returned to him, provided that he gets insurance for the vehicle and has someone else drive it away, or that he gets the vehicle towed from the police station. He complied with these requirements and the vehicle was released.
“He was also warned not to drive the vehicle again until such time that he obtained a Cayman Islands driver’s license,” the police statement read.
Meanwhile, Mr. Scott – whom the police said “all parties” had agreed was not the owner of the Toyota Windom – was due back in court on March 21, 2017.
“Fortunately, with all that developed … it was explained to the judge, and the courts had also received some information supporting my story,” Mr. Scott said. “The judge told me the charge was dropped and I was free to go.”
Further investigation by police led to charges against the Jamaican man on April 4, 2017, including using an unregistered vehicle, using a vehicle without a certificate of roadworthiness [coupon], driving without being qualified and driving without insurance.
Again on Aug. 11, 2017, the same man was charged with driving without being licensed, driving without insurance, expired license and expired roadworthiness certificate.
“I am unaware of the status of these matters,” police spokesperson Jacqueline Carpenter said regarding the referenced traffic court cases.
Mr. Scott, apparently unaware that police had confirmed the vehicle’s new ownership, made several further attempts to try and complete the transfer. As late as mid-July 2017, he said he was attempting to effect the legal transfer, even though the man who purchased his son’s car had already been charged with various offenses in April. Mr. Scott’s attempts to complete the transfer were ultimately unsuccessful.