D.C. improperly ticketed Md. drivers for D.C. law

WASHINGTON — Most of the more than 2 million parking tickets written in Washington, D.C. every year are good tickets for people breaking the laws, but others are glaring errors.

For example, tens of thousands of tickets each year are written for failure to display an inspection sticker, a $50 ticket. Under D.C. law, drivers must display a valid inspection sticker on their front windshield. Under Virginia law, drivers must also display a safety inspection sticker on their front windshield.

But last year, the District also wrote 47 inspection sticker violation tickets to Maryland drivers, according to records obtained by WTOP Ticketbuster.

Under Maryland law, drivers must only display a registration sticker on the rear license plate. Maryland law does not require an inspection sticker to be displayed on the front windshield. Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration issues a card that drivers must keep in the glove box to cover inspections.

“The requirement in Maryland is to carry the emissions inspection certificate at all times inside the vehicle,” says MVA spokesman Buel Young.

Out of the 47 tickets written, the D.C. Department of Public Works wrote 20 of them.

“The Department of Public Works Parking Enforcement Management Administration instructs our parking officers about when to issue P113 (Fail to Display Inspection Sticker) tickets and when a vehicle should not be cited for this violation. We will ask the Department of Motor Vehicles to void these tickets. If the motorist has paid the ticket already, there is an automatic system that will initiate a refund to the motorist,” says DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant.

She also points out that her agency wrote approximately 9,000 such violations to all motorists in 2014, thus 20 tickets are less than one-quarter-of-one-percent of all such tickets.

Metro Transit Police wrote eight of these erroneous tickets to Maryland drivers. Metro patrols the lots it operates and all parking tickets are then forwarded to the jurisdiction where the parking lot is located.

“We strive for 100 percent accuracy when it comes to the issuance of citations, and we regret any instance where we fall short of that goal. While eight improperly issued citations is a very small number against the backdrop of more than 13,000 parking citations issued, we understand that eight real people may have been inconvenienced here. We will ensure that our officers understand the requirements regarding the display of inspection stickers for Maryland vehicles,” says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) wrote 17 of the erroneous tickets. Spokesman Reggie Sanders did not respond to multiple requests for comments on the 17 tickets.

Out of the 47 tickets, 36 of the drivers did not challenge them at all, but rather just paid the fine. Among the 11 who did fight them, six were dismissed, four are still pending and one was upheld.

A DMV official tells WTOP that the one case where the ticket was upheld was a mistake. This official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about cases, reiterated that Maryland law should have resulted in an automatic dismissal.

WTOP Ticketbuster is currently investigating this incorrect ruling to determine why it happened.

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