WASHINGTON – After fighting with the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles for two years, a local man was finally able to convince the District they ticketed the wrong vehicle.
Bob King, of McLean, Va., says a District employee issued the ticket April 30, 2011 in the 1000 block of Water Street SW for not having tags on the front of the vehicle.
However, he didn’t learn about the ticket until more than a month later — when the DMV sent a “Notice of Unsatisfied Parking Tickets” dated June 6, 2011.
Instantly, he noticed a problem. While the license plate matched his vehicle’s, the notice described it as a Chrysler. King owns a Jeep SUV, which he says was with his son at Virginia Tech for the school year.
“I ended up calling the DMV to request a copy of the ticket and I was told to appeal and request a copy of the ticket,” says King.
“I did that in mid-June. Then in November 2011, I received a notice from the DMV saying I was liable for the ticket and never received a copy of the ticket.”
That notice came from hearing examiner Gina Walton. Public records show Walton has been with the DMV since August 1995. She is one of 18 hearing officers on staff.
Eventually, on November 23, 2011, King received the original ticket, a full seven months later.
As WTOP previously reported, federal employee John Stanton requested his parking ticket from D.C. several times, but only received it 18 months later.
“I took pictures of my Jeep, front and back with the Jeep emblem and pictures of both license plates. I also mailed in a copy of my registration to the DMV on November 26, 2011. I did not hear anything until September 2012, 10 months later, when a collections agency contacted me to collect the money,” says King.
DMV spokeswoman Vanessa Newton says King initially was found liable for the ticket “as no evidence was submitted to show that the vehicle had a front tag.”
“After the initial decision was rendered, a copy of the ticket was mailed to Mr. King and he then submitted documentation,” Newton says in an email to WTOP.
However, when asked when the documentation was sent, the DMV did not provide a date.
“Obviously you can get the original ticket mailed to you, if you reach the right person at the DMV. But it shouldn’t be dependent on the person you speak to. It should be part of the process routinely if you claim it wasn’t your vehicle,” says King.
He approached WTOP after the story about Stanton’s parking ticket. Earlier this month, the DMV agreed to rescind King’s ticket.
“(The) documentation (showed) that his vehicle was different than the one cited on the ticket. Once the DMV reviewed the additional information, and then the ticket was dismissed,” says Newton.
However, when WTOP asked whether the mistake was a simple clerical error in which someone accidentally mistyped the license plate, Newton said that was not the case.
“It was very frustrating. I am very grateful that you intervened. But why did it take two years for them to reconsider their decision? To me, the case was such a slam dunk, with pictures to show it was not a Chrysler minivan, that it was easy to prove that it was an incorrect ticket,” says King.
“All it took was a little light from WTOP to actually make the DMV realize the mistake. But it shouldn’t have gotten this far. It shouldn’t take WTOP to get it done,” says King.
District defends appeal process
D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, has oversight of the DMV. She told WTOP she does not see any evidence of a flawed adjudication process.
She says that a few dozen cases represent a fraction of the 200,000 cases heard every year.
“Is D.C. just trying to make money? It’s very easy to hit someone from Virginia with a fine and hope they pay. Most people will just pay,” says King.
“The process at the DMV is definitely flawed. I think the councilwoman’s comments suggest that the D.C. government as a whole wants the money and it won’t recognize a problem because of it. I got my ticket thrown out, but others like me aren’t as lucky,” he says.
DMV Director Lucinda Babers responded with a statement about the process.
“The purpose of D.C. DMV’s Adjudication Services is to adjudicate tickets customers believe were received in error. This means customers should submit evidence about the vehicle (and not the customer) in regards to the particular ticket infraction. For example, copies of vehicle registration, pay by phone meter receipt, and pictures are good evidence to include with the adjudication request,” says Babers.
However, as WTOP will chronicle in future stories, several drivers claim they sent in the evidence Babers suggests and were still found liable for a questionable infraction.
If you think you’re the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera, or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case – along with documentation – to firstname.lastname@example.org.