Usually, when we cover people ending up behind bars in this blog, it's because they tried to steal a rental car steal a rental car, or committed some crime with a car they rented, or used their rental car to transport drugs, or even flipped off another driver while in a rental car. This, however, is the first time we've heard of a situation where a renter has gone to jail through no fault of their own, but simply because the rental company failed to exercise due diligence.
Bailey Hawkins, a seven and a half months pregnant woman and first-time renter, rented a Toyota Camry from Enterprise on Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers after her car was in an accident. Apparently, the car they rented her had an unregistered license plate. As we wrote about last week, law enforcement is now using license plate scanners to look for criminals, stolen vehicles, and other infractions like--yes you guessed it--unregistered vehicles. Of course, Hawkins gets pulled over and issued a citation. Given that the infraction was a felony, it was not simply a matter of paying off the ticket. It required an appearance in court.
Hawkins was understandably upset by this turn of events saying, "I guess I wouldn't even think to check the registration or to check the license plate. I'm assuming they're giving me a legit car." She called Enterprise to explain the problem, and they were apologetic, agreeing to send her a new car. They told her to fax them over the ticket with the court date and they would take care of it. They assured her that she did not need to go to court. Unfortunately for Hawkins, Enterprise dropped the ball and never took care of the citation.
Hawkins was painting her unborn daughter's dresser when she heard a knock at the door. It was the Fort Myers police department who had a warrant for her arrest. She was taken to jail and given a bail of $1,000. She was also notified that her license was suspended after her arrest.
To their credit, Enterprise eventually took responsibility for the situation. They said that the first mistake was that the wrong plate was accidentally put on the wrong car. Additionally, the administrative office never received the files for court, which ultimately led to her arrest for a failure to appear. An Enterprise spokesperson responded as follows to FOX4 News in Fort Myers, "We are terribly sorry this happened to Ms. Hawkins. We put her in a horrible situation, and we are going to work with her to make it right."
Clearly a series of unfortunate events for both the renter and Enterprise. We hope that Enterprise appropriately compensates Ms. Hawkins for what must've been a difficult and stressful situation. While it would be unrealistic, and probably overkill to suggest that every renter check their vehicle paperwork, if there is one lesson here to be learned here, it's that if you are issued a violation, regardless of whether it's for a vehicle you own or owned by a 3rd party, be sure to follow through to make sure it's properly resolved.