Q: My older brother has received a lot of traffic tickets that he has just ignored. Not surprisingly, they have all gone to warrant. It now turns out that he has been giving the police my name, so all the warrants for arrest are for me! What do I do?
A: You should take care of this problem as soon as possible. The tickets normally have a physical description of the traffic violator on them. I would hope that your brother and you differ in the colors of your eyes or hair or in your height or weight. If you do not, you should be prepared to prove to the judge or commissioner that the tickets are not yours.
If the judge or commissioner believes you, you may request a copy of the court's record or a letter stating that you are not the person wanted on the tickets. You should carry this paper with you so that if you are stopped, you can show it to the officer.
You should be prepared to give your brother's name, date of birth, and address to the court. The tickets will then be amended to show his name, and the warrants will be then be re-issued for him. You should not feel guilty about providing this information, since your brother had no qualms about giving your name and exposing you to the possibility of being arrested and jailed.
Q: I hired a contractor for some remodeling on my house. The contractor, in turn, hired some subcontractors to perform the job. Before any work was done, I paid the contractor a hefty deposit, which he said was necessary to pay the subcontractors.
To make a long story short, the contractor has disappeared, and the subcontractors are now claiming they were never paid for their work. They are threatening to put a lien on my property.
Can they do this? It doesn't seem fair that they can get me when it was the contractor who cheated them.
A: A subcontractor is entitled to place what is known as a mechanic's lien on property for which he has provided labor or materials. The subcontractor may do this even if the owner of the property paid the contractor and it is the contractor who has failed to pay the subcontractor.
The subcontractor must comply with specific requirements regarding notice to the owner in order for the lien to be valid.
If the subcontractor does record a mechanic's lien on your property, your remedy would be to sue the contractor and his bonding company, if there is one. The law is such that even though the owner may be innocent of any wrongdoing, he has received value from the subcontractor, who is therefore entitled to be paid.
Q: My girlfriend absolutely will not use a seat belt when she is riding in my car. I keep telling her that I could get a ticket for this, but she refuses to believe me. Who is right?
A: The driver of a car can receive a ticket if his passenger is not wearing a seat belt. The maximum fine for a first offense is $22. For a further offense, it increases to $55.
You would have a defense if your girlfriend suffers from a medical or physical disability that prevents her wearing a belt. She must, however, be able to prove it.
B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life. Got a question for Judge Nomoto? Write to: Ask the Judge, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Questions of broadest interest will be answered in her column.