Adjudication for D.C. ticket goes on 2 years

WASHINGTON – A D.C. resident fighting a ticket since early 2012 tells WTOP TicketBuster he’s fed up with delays and he is angry his ticket has been before an appeals board without resolution for almost two years.

Justin Johnson, who lives in Ward 2, received a ticket for an expired temporary tag on his license plate. Johnson challenged the ticket.

He provided a bill of sale to show that he purchased the car 11 months after the tag’s expiration, arguing the dealership just made a mistake on the year’s expiration. He says it read, “expires January 2011”, but should have read, “expires January 2012.”

A Department of Motor Vehicles hearing examiner found Johnson liable. The DMV adjudicates all tickets in the District of Columbia. He appealed in late March 2012. Now in January 2014, the DMV Traffic Adjudication Appeals Board (TAAB) still hasn’t ruled on his case.

“The thing that bothers me the most is that we have 30 days to pay a ticket. We must file an appeal within 15 calendar dates of the hearing. We have tight deadlines or else we face consequences. Apparently, according to the DMV, they could take not even two years, but ad infinitum, keep my money and never rule on my case,” says Johnson.

Johnson is referring to an email sent to him and WTOP in early December.

“It may take the Traffic Adjudication Appeals Board (TAAB) up to two years to render a decision. Additionally, there is no law that automatically dismisses a ticket if TAAB does not render a decision within 24 months,” writes DMV spokeswoman Vanessa Newton.

At a D.C. City Council committee hearing in October, DMV Director Lucinda Babers testified the average wait time for an appeal is 15 months. Johnson has waited nearly 22 months.

Back in Feb. 2012, Babers testified before the same D.C. City Council committee that two years is too long to wait for an appeal, calling it unreasonable.

“In regards to Mr. Johnson, the delay is due to [an increase in] the volume of appeals that D.C. DMV received. On the appeals application, it states that it may take up to two years to receive a decision. Since the number of the appeals that D.C. DMV receives fluctuates, the average response time also fluctuates,” writes Newton in another email to WTOP.

As has been common practice since the beginning of the WTOP TicketBuster series, Babers was carbon copied on all emails, but wouldn’t speak directly with WTOP.

This past summer, D.C. Council chairmen Phil Mendelson and Jim Graham introduced a bill to address this issue.

The DMV Traffic Adjudication Amendment Act would require the TAAB to rule on all appeals within six months, or face automatic dismissal. It’s unlikely this provision will survive as is, but could open up a discussion on whether the DMV should have firm deadlines to rule. D.C. councilwoman Mary Cheh, chairwoman of the Transportation and the Environment Committee, has yet to make any moves on the bill.

“I think a lot people have this experience with a DMV. You go in and pay your taxes. But I do expect some things. Maybe a year, 365 days, would be enough time to rule,” says Johnson.

The idea seems plausible and was floated in early 2012 as a possible standard.

“I don’t know what needs to be done. Maybe we need to get a new director? Maybe we need a carrot and stick approach?” says Johnson.

“This totally undermines my faith, as a D.C. resident, in the council to do some oversight. They expect us to follow strict rules, but when it comes to them, it’s however long they want to take. That’s just wrong.”

Cheh spokesman Devin Ward didn’t respond to a request for comment, although WTOP did alert her and her staff to the case on Dec. 11.

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

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