DC mistakenly fines drivers for lapsed insurance coverage

WASHINGTON — A letter sent by mistake from D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles has some drivers’ heads turning, as it incorrectly states they owe the city a hefty fine.

When District resident Linda Feldmann opened a letter from the DMV, she thought it was a speeding ticket. Instead, it was a letter alerting her that her car insurance had lapsed for six months, and her vehicle registration was pending suspension.

“And because of that, I owed the District a fine of $1,228 — and I was just absolutely floored. I went to my bank account online to see if I had paid,” Feldmann said.

Gwendolyn Chambers with the DMV confirmed the insurance lapse letters went out in error but could not say how many drivers are affected.

“What’s really annoying about this letter is it’s a total presumption of guilt. There’s no, ‘It could be a mistake,'” Feldmann said.

The information in the letter had Feldmann’s correct license, VIN number and insurance information, so it did not seem like a scam. But after checking she had paid her insurance, Feldmann got in touch with the DMV, which instructed her to send a fax asking for a clearance letter.

According to the D.C. mayor’s office, those who have also received a letter and have questions about it can call 311.

The department plans to send out letters to drivers alerting them to the mistake and correct the errors, Chambers said in a statement to WTOP.

Feldmann posted the story on her Facebook page where other friends said they, too, had received similar letters. One friend, who she did not name, said that the person she spoke with at the DMV confirmed it was in the neighborhood of 5,000 letters sent in error.

“5K letters multiplied by hours spent by inconvenienced citizens, and hours spent verifying proof of coverage by insurance companies, not to mention the resulting hours spent by DC DMV staff workers, who are now processing citizens’ validation faxes, adds up to thousands of unnecessary wasted time and aggravation,” the friend posted on Feldmann’s page.

Below is a copy of the letter the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles sent.

DMV Letter by wtopweb on Scribd

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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