Bizarre ticket issued to license plate dead since 2004

In August, Maryland driver Steven Kidwell was told he owed money for this parking ticket. However, a WTOP TicketBuster investigation shows this license number never belonged to Kidwell and has not been active since Feb. 10, 2004. (Courtesy Steven Kidwell)

HYATTSVILLE, Md. – Steven Kidwell received a bizarre ticket in the mail from the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles in August, but a WTOP TicketBuster investigation finds it was for license plates that have not been issued since 2004.

Department of Public Works officer Steven C. Starks wrote the ticket for illegal parking at 3300 N Street NW on June 28, 2013. Starks has been with DPW since April 1991, according to public records. Since no one paid the ticket within 30 days, the DMV mailed out a notice on Aug. 2 to Kidwell, doubling the $30 fine.

“I knew I hadn’t been in D.C. in a long time. So I opened it up and it said I owed a ticket for a license plate I didn’t recognize. It’s not like anything I have,” says Kidwell. “I was hot. There were four letter words, there were definitely a few.”

He contested the ticket online with the DMV, which adjudicates tickets in the District, and simultaneously contacted WTOP TicketBuster.

“I see a lot of your stories and the DMV requests documentation. But I don’t have documentation for a vehicle I don’t own, so I thought it would be a nightmare and I needed some help,” says Kidwell.

The ticket was written for Maryland plates FXP207. But Kidwell’s two vehicle registrations don’t match, or even closely resemble, FXP207. Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) searched their records and verified Kidwell’s account.

“MVA records indicate that the registration associated with MD TAG NUM: FXP207 was cancelled on 02/10/04. The record also indicates that MVA received both TAGS at the time of cancellation,” writes MVA spokesman Buel Young in an email to WTOP.

We disclosed the statement from Young to the D.C. DMV, which agreed to drop the citation against Kidwell. DMV spokeswoman Vanessa Newton says the MVA information was sufficient to warrant a dismissal.

But still unanswered is one key question: How did Kidwell receive this notice in the first place?

Currently, there’s no system in place to catch an erroneous ticket before a notice gets sent to the wrong driver.

When a ticket goes unpaid in the District, its vendor Xerox State and Local Solutions researches the license plate on the original ticket. The results from Maryland or Virginia databases only include the name and address belonging to the license plate. Color, make or model aren’t included. Therefore, if a ticket writer makes an error on the license plate, there’s no way for Xerox or the DMV to notice a discrepancy before a warning notice goes to the incorrect driver.

But in this case, FXP207 doesn’t correspond to any driver, so it’s unclear how Kidwell’s name came up in a computer.

“I don’t understand how this happened. Bad data in, bad data out. Someone doing data entry doesn’t get it right. I just have no idea. I work in IT and it shouldn’t happen,” says Kidwell.

“How did this get associated with me and how do we get this disassociated from me now — because I’m worried that I will get more bad tickets with this license plate in the future.”

WTOP asked the DMV about how it happened, but didn’t receive an answer.

Kidwell says he’s content it’s over, but this experience makes his less likely to travel into D.C. and spend money to support the city government.

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