WASHINGTON – Residents who live in a corner of D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood were startled to wake up this week and see car after car lined up their block with those ubiquitous pink parking tickets stuck on the windshield, and all for the same violation.
In all, during a four-day window, 109 D.C. car owners were ticketed for failing to get their car inspected.
The same enforcement officer wrote the tickets along the short, tight blocks of Riggs Place and S Street near 16th Street NW among other neighboring streets.
“I went outside just to make sure I didn’t have to move my car and saw this ticket on my windshield right on top of my inspection sticker. It said ‘Failure to Appear’ and then I see in the comment section it says ‘wrong tags’,” says Mark Phelan.
Like many District residents, Phelan purchased a vehicle with Virginia tags. When he moved into the city, he took his car to an inspection station to get a sticker, and then went to the Department of Motor Vehicles. After registering his car, he received new D.C. license plates. However, since D.C. regulations require drivers to inspect the car before registering it, the inspection sticker listed the old Virginia license plate.
DPW Officer A. Barrow failed to notice the vehicle identification number (VIN). Had he done so, he would have discovered the VINs on the sticker matched the VIN on the cars. According to public records, the officer appears to have been hired within the last year.
Keith Thornburg, who lives on S Street NW, got a ticket under similar circumstances.
“Me and my girlfriend purchased a car from a private party in Virginia. He took his tags back. We went to the inspection station, got our inspection sticker. Our inspection sticker has NA for tags. Then we went to the DMV and got our D.C. plates,” says Thornburg.
“As soon as I got my ticket, I went outside. I saw five cars in a row with a ticket, then one without a ticket. Then the next five had tickets. You’d think this officer would’ve noticed what he was doing and stopped to think about it,” he adds.
Others, like Astrid Rieckenas, didn’t purchase out-of-state cars, but still were ticketed.
“My inspection sticker is good until March 2016. But when I saw that it said the tag on the inspection sticker didn’t match mine, I knew it was because I had the car inspected shortly before I changed my title to remove a name and they gave me new tags. Since this happened after the inspection, clearly the old tags were on the sticker,” says Rieckenas.
After WTOP Ticketbuster and other media outlets contacted D.C. DPW, the agency uncovered the problem.
“We have identified 109 tickets written in error for P112/Failing to report for inspection. We have asked DMV to void the tickets. We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this error and are using this as a teachable opportunity to advise all parking officers to be more careful when they believe they have identified a violation,” writes DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant.
For Thornburg, Phelan and Rieckenas, it means they won’t have to waste time fighting the tickets.
“To re-inspect it because of the sticker would clog up the stations. The best solution is that DPW retrains everyone to understand what happened here, so that these inspection sticker tickets are not handed out with such carelessness again. Without this media investigation and intervention from you, I don’t think this would have occurred,” says Thornburg.
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. Send us your case along with any documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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