Alexandria to refund 2,000 speeding tickets after probe turns up faulty speedometer tests

Nearly 2,000 drivers ticketed for speeding in Alexandria, Virginia, are eligible for refunds after an internal probe turned up faulty testing of police speedometers.

In a news release Wednesday, the city said speedometers in police cruisers had not been tested frequently enough and, in some cases, city technicians were improperly conducting the tests.

All told, 2,169 drivers who were issued speeding tickets between March 2016 and May 2019 have had their tickets voided. In addition, the city said it will pay drivers’ court costs stemming from the tickets.

At the request of the city, the Alexandria General District Court threw out all convictions related to the now-voided tickets on Oct. 1.

The canceled speeding tickets represent about 11 percent of the more than 19,000 speeding tickets issued during the three-year period in question, the city said.

“We recognize the burden placed on those affected, and we have taken significant proactive steps to restore public confidence and prevent future errors,” said City Manager Mark Jinks in a statement. “Our community and our police officers should be able to expect that speeding tickets are based on properly tested equipment, and we sincerely regret that the city did not meet that expectation in certain cases.”

A city supervisor first raised the alarm about speedometer checks in October 2017 after witnessing a technician with Department of General Services employee improperly conducting checks, according to the internal report

After an initial review by the city department, City Manager Mark Jinks ordered a formal investigation by the city auditor in January 2019.

That wider probe turned up even more problems, including instances where cruisers’ speedometers were not checked every six months as required by Virginia law and other cases where speedometer checks of several vehicles were conducted in “a suspiciously short” period of time.

“We had a problem. We realized as we were reviewing the problem that it went much deeper,” Jinks, the city manager, told WTOP in an interview.

The city said it was voiding the tickets because it may not have been able to successfully defend them if they were challenged in court. For example, the internal report said some of the flawed speedometer checks could have amounted to “tainted evidence” if the tickets were challenged. The employee whose questionable speedometer testing first sparked the investigation is no longer employed by the city, according to city spokesman Craig Fifer.

The city said it used carefully reviewed citation records to identify the drivers who were issued tickets by officers in the vehicles with speedometers that hadn’t been properly checked.

“We felt that we had a certain standard that we were supposed to carry out. That standard was not met and the fair thing to do was offer refunds and vacate the tickets,” Jinks said.

Of the more than 2,000 drivers issued tickets in the three-year period, about 1,904 are eligible for a refund, the city spokesman said. The others may have already had their tickets dismissed or were found not guilty by a judge.

Letters to drivers eligible for a refund were sent out Oct. 2. About half the drivers ticketed had addresses outside Alexandria.

Eligible drivers have to request refunds online at alexandriava.gov/SpeedingTickets. Drivers who want to know whether they’re eligible for a refund or have questions can call (703) 746-6220 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In addition to the refunds, the city has also requested the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reverse any actions that resulted from the speeding tickets, such as demerit points.

The city said it has since improved testing practices and staff training to correct the problem.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report. 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the number of drivers who are eligible for refunds and to clarify that the Alexandria court has already vacated convictions and dismissed cases. 

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