Ticketbuster: How many bogus parking tickets can one person get?

At left is Walter Edwards\' license plate. At right, the license plate in the photo of the ticket Edwards got on Saturday. It\'s the second time Edwards has fought the D.C. bureaucracy over a bogus ticket assigned to him. (Courtesy Walter Edwards)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Walter Edwards spent 10 months in 2013 fighting red tape to get a ticket in the District of Columbia thrown out, only to open his mailbox to find a second bogus ticket assigned to him.

Edwards originally appeared on WUSA9 and WTOP Ticketbuster last fall. District Department of Transportation Officer Dimitri Dyson wrote a ticket that the Department of Motor Vehicles assigned to him. DMV adjudicates all tickets in the District of Columbia.

DMV hearing examiners ruled that Edwards owed the city $200, even though the ticket writer put the incorrect number of doors and the wrong expiration date for the license plate on the ticket. Edwards knew it wasn’t his car, because he lives in Arlington and never drives into the District.

Last October, D.C. DMV reversed the decision after Edwards went to the media. But it took a constant back-and-forth to reach the resolution.

On Saturday, Edwards opened up his mailbox and found another letter from the D.C. DMV. He saw the return address and knew there was a problem.

“When I saw the envelope, my thoughts were, ‘My God, they’ve done it again,'” says Edwards.

His instincts were right.

Department of Public Works officials were alleging that Edwards parked in a rush-hour zone on Feb. 28 of this year at 200 3rd St. SW at 4:06 p.m. But the ticket says the car in question was an Acura; Edwards drives a 1986 Nissan.

DPW Officer Marlon B. Banks wrote the ticket, but the pictures show the license plates on the car are WVE-5382. Edwards’ license plate is a WVE, a Virginia vanity plate.

TICKET.jpg

A snapshot of the ticket Edwards got on Saturday. The license plate on the ticket doesn’t match the one in the photo.

Banks has been involved in a WTOP Ticketbuster case before. He wrote a ticket to Stephen Combs on Nov. 6 for parking during street- sweeping hours, even though the pictures showed those regulations ended Oct. 31.

“Last year, I thought I was going to have a heart attack over this because I was really, really distressed,” Edwards says. “I wasn’t distressed about the money — I was distressed with the absolute incompetence of those I was dealing with and the fact that they simply didn’t care about facts. They were only interested in driving me to the point that I would give up and pay the money.”

Round Two with the DMV

Edwards contacted the DMV and WTOP Ticketbuster Sunday. He asked that the ticket be automatically thrown out based on all the records that DMV had on file from his 2013 case.

“D.C. DMV does not issue tickets. The function of this agency in the system of checks and balances is to adjudicate tickets. Ticket #8124946675 was issued by the District of Columbia Department of Public Works (DPW). To have the ticket dismissed, please submit a request for adjudication online and provide a copy of your vehicle registration,” DMV spokeswoman Vanessa Newton wrote Monday morning.

Edwards was upset because DMV already had his registration on file, along with several pictures of his Nissan, from the previous case. He didn’t understand why he needed to go through adjudication all over again.

“This time I suggest DMV Director Lucinda Babers simply instruct adjudication services to review the current ticket, and compare it to the vehicle registration they have on file and dismiss the ticket. Why should I have to do anything to prove my innocence when the DMV already has all necessary information that proves the ticket is bogus?” wrote Edwards.

Newton wouldn’t budge.

“Each ticket is evaluated independently and submitting a request for adjudication is an individual decision. D.C. DMV will adjudicate the ticket if you submit a request for adjudication,” she wrote.

If Edwards filed for another adjudication, he would’ve had to wait five to six months, or even more, before getting a decision. Given his 2013 experience, he wasn’t willing to wait.

“You guided me to a picture of the ticket and a photo of the plate. Check it out. The plate contains the letters WVE plus four more numbers. My plate has only the letters WVE. Clearly a problem. The ticket does not even match the plate that was ticketed. Please forward the information to adjudication services so they can officially dismiss the ticket,” he wrote.

“I hope you realize‎ that failing to get this dismissed with the information the DMV already has, will only add spice to the reporter’s stories. And this will all be about how ineffective the DMV management is,” he adds.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, who oversees the DMV and DPW, agreed that Edwards shouldn’t have to wait.

“This shouldn’t have happened, obviously. I’m sorry that this person had to go through this yet again. I’m going to get in touch with them and remind them that this person has just gone through this hellish experience once, and there is no reason why they can’t look at their own file and resolve this quickly,” says Cheh.

An 11th-hour solution

Despite Cheh and her staff putting pressure on the DMV, no one agreed to void the Edwards ticket for most of Tuesday.

But Tuesday evening at 6:25, DPW contacted WTOP Ticketbuster. We told DPW that our story would be published Wednesday morning.

“We are going to void the ticket because the tag number on the ticket does not match the tag in the image. Our supervisors monitor their employees’ work and identify where a ticket writer needs additional training and arranges for that training. Ms. Doke has initiated an enhanced training program that will address this type of error,” DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant wrote.

Grant is referring to Teri Doke, who joined DPW in late 2013 and admitted to WTOP Ticketbuster that there are “lapses” in the performance of ticket writers. She said raising the performance of ticket writers is her top priority.

Several questions remain unanswered:

  • Do supervisors compare images from the ticket writer to the ticket itself to catch any fact errors before sending it to the DMV?
  • Why do ticket writers take pictures if supervisors don’t always check the images?
  • Why doesn’t the D.C. DMV check the images automatically?
  • Will Mr. Banks be disciplined, investigated or watched more closely after two defective tickets in three months?

Grant has not answered those questions.

Edwards is happy his case is over without another drawn out battle, but he hopes lawmakers will pass the Transportation Reorganization Act, which would remove ticket writing from DPW and adjudication from the DMV.

“I like Ms. Cheh’s proposal. I’m all in favor of a single department to deal with parking issues. It would streamline things and people could talk to each other in one office, rather than three separate agencies in separate parts of the city,” says Edwards.

His wife, Judy, suggested he change his plates. Virginia DMV officials tell WTOP that it began issuing standard plates with WVE plus four numbers in 2012 and continue to do so today. The result is that all this could happen to Edwards yet again.

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 ticketbuster@wtop.com.

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