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Don't Mess with New Jersey: Paying with Pennies Got Man Into Trouble

Frank Gilberti thought that his traffic ticket was "non-cents." He noticed that the Bloomfield, New Jersey, municipal court accepts cash to pay the fine, so he decided to pay with real cents: $56 in pennies!

That's when he got into more trouble:

"I went to the bank and got $56 worth of rolled pennies and went down to the court house and they refused to take it. They had told me to bring cash. I was under the assumption this was cash."

Non-cents? Not really. Pennies are legal tender. In fact, at the courthouse WCBS-TV found a sign saying cash is accepted. That's why the Nutley resident said he fought back, calling the court and convincing workers there to take his pennies.

But the 22-year-old said there was a condition -- that he write his driver's license number on each roll. "I simply asked them if I would have to do just this if I were handing in $56 bill. Would I have to write my driver's license number on each bill? They had no response," Gilberti said.

And even more shocking he said: "Then I found out there was a warrant out for my arrest."

Link


Don't know about the US, but I know in England, above a certain value (five pounds I think), pennies are no longer legal tender. Lot of people don't know that, but it's true. I would imagine the US is similar. No doubt to stop stupid pricks like this.
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Pennies are legal tender.

Until the government abolishes them or something,
the government needs to accept them.

I really think the city government is going down in this case. What law was he breaking by trying to pay in legal tender?
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The warrant would be from not paying his fine on time not because he tried to use pennies.
But the city should have to take the pennies they are legal tender still. And they are obviously in machined bank rolls so the count should be accurate. So he isn't trying to SHORT CHANGE the city. ;-)
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I think they're perfectly within their rights to insist on that. Not sure why they'd want his driver's licence oneach roll. They're just trying to sass him back.

No sympathy.
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You read things like this off and on. I think there's some arcane law about coins and paper money but I can't remember the details. Yet another case of the small guy getting squashed by the so called authorities. Was he being a horses rear? Of course he was. No laws against that. If so we'd all be in the clink. Power seldom has a sense of humor. Strange how people so easily forget their roots when they get to a position of power.
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Abuse of power. End of story. Pennies are legal tender, they cannot refuse him, regardless of what his intentions were for using them. This is our government, this isn't Kindergarten.. Though one could mistakenly assume so.
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I feel like these stories come along every so often, and the people involved feel mightily clever for forcing the agency they're paying to have to go through even more trouble. They're not clever, they're obnoxious.
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Exactly, this isn't kindergarten so stop acting like a child. Man up and pay your fine like an responsible adult. Should our (well, your in this case as I'm in the UK) taxes pay for a federal employee to deal with losers like this?
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One summer, many years ago, I visited a friend in Atlantic City. Now, in A.C. you have to pay to get onto the beach. Being from Delaware, where the beach is free (as God intended), I was appalled. Besides, I was 18 and didn't have however much money it cost. (It was perhaps $10.) So my friend and I scrounged up all the loose change in my car and his house, put it in a cookie tin and headed to the beach. When the attendant came around to collect our cash, we tried to hand him the tin (with the correct amount) he said, "never mind" and gave us our passes anyway. So it seems that New Jersey has long refused coins as payment.
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Actually, he should have fought taken his pennies and left, only to fight the ticket in court on the grounds that since pennies represent legal tender, and as such are required to be accepted to pay any and all debts, the city's first refusal to accept them nullified his debt. If you offer legal tender payment for a debt and it is refused, you no longer have any responsibility to pay said debt.
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"I simply asked them if I would have to do just this if I were handing in $56 bill."

I wouldn't take a $56 dollar bill. Even if he wrote his drivers license on it.
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Hey ... he rolled the pennies. They should take them. Of course he could have rolled a few pennies on each end and filled the middle with something else ... maybe that's why they asked him to put his DL# on each roll.
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He went to the bank and got the rolled pennies. He didn't roll them himself (that makes him an A$$).
The fact is a penny is Money. It is the smallest amount of cash money you can possess. (i don't think Mills are taken anywhere now) If they allow people to pay with cash then they have to take the pennies. I've worked retail and had people count out change from a tin can. If nothing else taking the pennies stops you from having to go to the bank and getting change from them.
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It's legal tender, and it's not like there was any skin off the employees nose, the ticket payer actually had to go to more work to have all the pennies rolled at the bank. Just take the pennies, the only thing city hall has done in this instance is validated what the man wanted to do. He became a pain in the butt. I agree with Hollywood Bob as well. He offered payment with legal tender, and they refused it. I mean it's not like he tried to pay with a picture of a 7 legged spider or something!
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HollywoodBob is exactly right. They HAVE to take pennies, as they are legal tender for all debts, public and private. Since he already owed the money, they had to accept it. The specific language in the legal code is:

United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.

I personally think he's a hero for standing up to the government. I'm thinking I might start paying all of my taxes this way. Those of you who are willing to be slaves to the government without a fight, well, you sicken me. Enjoy your declining standard of living and total loss of freedom.
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For what it's worth, I have in the past paid annoying charges in $2 bills. Those have printed right on them "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private" so there's no arguing with anyone over that. Maybe they aren't as annoying as giving somebody 20 pounds of pennies, though.

One coin people generally hate is Susan B. Anthony dollars, the "Carter Quarters" of the late 1970s. You could really bug folks by giving them a pile of those. They are getting harder to find now that the "ersatz Sakajawea" dollar coin has replaced them. ALthough the same size, the newer coins are gold colored and harder for dopey clerks to confuse with a quarter.
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Tacky and a serious lack of class. If my boyfriend ever tried to do this I would dump him in a heartbeat. He's not a hero, he's a dick. I don't care that they were supposed to accept the pennies. What does mistreating a clerk at a payment window have to do with disagreeing with a fine? Did she write the ticket? Anyone who thinks he's awesome has never been a cashier or in a customer service position.

WhollyRoamin'Catholic - I lolled. :)

Also:
"Why did my taxes go up?"
"Well they had to hire a couple extra people to count all these pennies that these jackasses pay their fines with. Not so funny now, is it?"
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If this is such a huge concern, why don't they get rid of the penny and round up everything up to 10 or 5 cents. They used to have something called a 1/2 penny, but it was found to be useless so they phased it out. It's their loss for not taking the pennies, they denied legal tender. Nobody is talking because they don't have a rebutle argument, I hope these idiots are going to have to pay for the bail fee he paid if he wins the court case.
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It's not like the clerks were out anything. They were rolled by the bank, boxed, easy to count, and the bank would take them no questions asked. Granted they are a bit heavy, but big deal. What if he didn't do it to be a dick? What if that was the only way he had to pay it in time (he saved pennies and all his money went to food/bills until the next paycheck)? It doesn't matter, they were legal tender and it was the clerks being the real jerks.

Side note: writing your DL number on the side of every roll is a major privacy issue as well. It's not like they couldn't track him down if it somehow came up short.
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Let me point out one thing, being from the area: Most people in North Jersey act like a-holes most of the time. So this guy decided to be an a-hole by paying is traffic ticket in pennies, and the town decided to be a-holes by not accepting it. But to people from New Jersey, this behavior is all normal.

By the way, Bloomfield is the same town that almost refused to let the last scene of The Sopranos be shot there because they thought it would give the town a bad image. (I worked for the town's high school for two years until they got rid of me. I'm bitter, can you tell?)
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I'm not sure about the US, but in the UK postage stamps are also legal tender.

He should try posting in stamps if they won't accept the pennies.

Actually, this makes me think of something else. Recently the price of copper has gone up a fair bit and people have been nicking copper wire all over the place. I wonder how much pennies are worth if you sold them as scrap copper?
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only in nj...........gilberti may be acting childish, but he is within his rights.......pennies are legal tender........these people just don't get it.......they are public servants.......he is the public.......accept his damn pennies and move on to other business and stop wasting the taxpayers' time and money.
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Easy, they're not worth a whole lot in copper. They were once mostly copper, but I think it was the 70s when they changed it. Pennies are almost entirely zinc with a thin copper shell. In high school chemistry we'd file some of the copper off and put the pennies in acid to disolve the zinc so we were left with just the copper. Definitely not worth the time to get enough copper to exchange (and I believe it's technically illegal, but I'm not for sure).
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Woogie
"Don’t know about the US, but I know in England, above a certain value (five pounds I think), pennies are no longer legal tender. Lot of people don’t know that, but it’s true."

I still think the situation here is similar to that.
I know I have read some things about this, will try and find something. Everyone that's so sure pennies are legal tender may be mistaken. None of our coins say they are legal tender. I realize I might not be making much sense but just because we assume coins are legal tender may not make that a fact. We might not have the right to pay all debts with them. This will bug me until I can find what it was that I read.

WhollyRoamin'Catholic
"I wouldn’t take a $56 dollar bill. Even if he wrote his drivers license on it."

No foolin' you by golly!

Sid Morrison
"For what it’s worth, I have in the past paid annoying charges in $2 bills."

Did you ever get some with their corners torn off? I used to get $2 bills in my pay when in the navy. I think the military was the largest users of them then.
Reason I ask is I remember my dad telling me people would rip the corners off to keep them from being spent as $1 bills by mistake.

Darkwish -
"writing your DL number on the side of every roll is a major privacy issue as well."

Try telling that to numerous states that use SSNs for DL numbers. I know GA gives an option to request a non SSN for the DL #. Others may also? BTW I DO agree with you. Also how many people show their DL when asked for an ID. A DL is NOT an ID.

Easy
"I’m not sure about the US, but in the UK postage stamps are also legal tender."

Not in the US. I do remember in Italy many years ago people would leave stamps as tips when buying cappuccino for example. Don't know about now.

Getting rid of pennies has been around for a long time. I believe even though they are mostly zinc it costs more to make one than they are worth. Government loses mucho dinaro every year on them.
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1. Starting in 1982, pennies were no longer 100% copper.

2. I remember reading, several years ago, that you can refuse any payment in pennies that exceed $0.50. It has to do with the burden of counting the coins.

3. If you receive rolls of pennies from one bank and use them to make a deposit at second bank, the second bank will open up each roll to double check the count because they can be certain the rolls have not been tampered with. They do not do this for bank to bank transfers.

Well that' my 2 cents for now.
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That's funny, from what I am reading they actualy had the right to refuse the pennies, and made up a stupid idea to have him put his drivers licence number on the rolls instead of knowing the actualy laws and stating them. Supervisor/middle-management fail?
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Hey everyone. I found something from the U.S. Treasury Department but it kind of muddies the water a little.

This from their FAQ:
"Question I thought that United States currency was legal tender for all debts. Some businesses or governmental agencies say that they will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment, and others will only accept currency notes in denominations of $20 or smaller. Isn't this illegal?

Answer The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, entitled "Legal tender," which states: "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues."

This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy."

Just what is an 'organization'? Can't a state agency be considered to be one as disorganized as they may be?

"There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services."

If a state agency is an organization it looks like
they can do what happened in the story. If it is not an organization it looks to me like the law says they have to accept the pennies.

I did find that I was wrong about coins. They are legal tender same as bills.

I hate not getting a complete answer. The fog continues I am afraid.
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As much as I hate this guy, (advetising for staples I think). This angers me. I would accept pennies. As long as there in a roll. Heck even if they were not in the roll.
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They DID accept the pennies, but only on the condition that he write his DL# on the rolls. Just because the pennies are rolled doesn't mean they don't still have to spend time counting them; he could have filled the center with something else, which is why I assume they wanted his DL#. He's an ass and they were completely in their right.
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About 15 years ago, while on business in New York City (Brooklyn)at the Metro Transit Authority, I parked my car about 3 blocks away. No meter, no yellow/red lines, no temp restricted parking signs or permanent ones and I checked, being a frequent Manhattan visitor. There were other cars there also and it was late in the day in this business area. Two hours later, I come out and the car is gone. First I thought it was stolen, then after 20 calls, I learned it was towed. I was irate and after walking around I found a no-parking sign 6 CITY BLOCKS AWAY! Brooklyn impound closes, (unlike Manhattan which is a 24hr ATM for the city) so by the time I got the 260.00 tow fee (thats right tow/ticket/STORAGE), it was closed. I had to return the next day and pay 290. What was I going to do, contest it when the court date was 30 days a way? Spend the next week arguing with assinine beaurcrats while I have no car. Was I going to get the tow fee back after I won the case?..yeah right. This was legalized extortion. (and they talk about the mob...they are worse). They count on people paying to generate income, legal or not. THEY make it tough, and (not worth your while) to contest it and have your day in court. I have, (and had at the time also), a perfect driving record and clean everything. Maybe this guy was ticked because of something similar. Everyone assumes he received a valid ticket. Fines are supposed to punish bad behavior and now it seem like they are just used to bail bloated local govts out. Have you seen the great service taxpayers get at DMV? They are always mad at the world and think they can do whatever they want, and they can, or you wait forever. The line is "By the people, for the people", but some "public servants" forgot or never knew that. Also, I'm sure they HAD to take the pennies. When I was younger the Garden State Parkway machines wouldn't accept them and now they do.
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I work in retail, have for many a year. I had a lady come in, and buy a Nintendo Wii, Wii Carrying Case, Wii Play game, Wii Nunchuks (2), and about 3 new release games. A total of 490 dollars worth of product (before tax) in rolled change.

I accepted it. It was all there, and we weren't short a dime that night. It went to the bank in a change order later that week.

I'm glad this guy stood up, but sad that he let the man get him down. Money is money, if you're going to hand out pennies as change, then you should accept them as payment, no matter the amount. As for the DL number on each roll... how many other fine-payers are gonna pay in pennies? If an issue comes up, you're going to remember the guy, and then you can issue a warrant or whatever.

The system has been failing since its conception. This is just another example that the system suffers an original flaw.
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