Motorists can be held indefinitely at toll booths if they pay with large denomination bills, according to a federal appeals court ruling handed down Wednesday. A family of drivers—Joel, Deborah and Robert Chandler—filed suit last year arguing they were effectively being held hostage by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the private contractor in charge of the state's toll road, Faneuil, Inc.
Under FDOT policies in place at the time, motorists who paid with $50 bills, and occasionally even $5 bills, were not given permission to proceed until the toll collector filled out a "Bill Detection Report" with data about the motorist's vehicle and details from his driver's license. Many of those who chose to pay cash did so to avoid the privacy implications of installing a SunPass transponder that recorded their driving habits. They were likewise unwilling to provide personal information to the toll collector, but they had no alternative because the toll barrier would not be raised without compliance. FDOT policy does not allow passengers to exit their vehicle, and backing up is illegal and usually impossible while other cars wait behind. FDOT dropped the Bill Detection Reports in 2010.