Dear PoP – Rant: DC photo enforcement

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

On the heels of this morning’s Post story on speed cameras. We previously lamented speed cameras this summer.

“Dear PoP,

Here’s a rant for you that I cut and pasted from my online defense statement for a DC photo enforcement speeding ticket I ‘received.’ Supposedly I was going 11-15 mph above the limit at the 3100 Block of N. Capitol St. NW. I only found out about the ticket because I logged on to pay for a different parking ticket.

“I learned of this ticket, issued 10/30/2010, when I logged on today 12/2/2010 to pay a separate parking violation. I’m not sure what DC’s photo enforcement program involves, but I’m pretty sure getting a notification of the ticket is a required step! I have not received any ticket or photo evidence to go along with this ticket, and only learned about it because I had to pay a parking fine (I always pay promptly).

My defense is this: I refuse to pay a fine, much less extra late fees, for a violation that I have not been made aware of, and that DC has not provided any evidence of. If there is no photo evidence, how am I supposed to know if I was even in DC that day, much less defend what speed I was going on a particular road? What’s to stop DC from issuing tickets to the wrong vehicle if no evidence of the speeding violation can be provided? If DC wants to use photo enforcement instead of pulling people over, then it will need to PRODUCE THE EVIDENCE AND NOTIFY THE DRIVER OF THE TICKET!

Given the serious nature of a delinquent payment, how is DC going to improve it’s process for notifying drivers? If something gets lost in the mail, and I end up with a boot on my car and can’t get to work, who is responsible? Based on my experience so far, photo enforcement seems like a way to take something commonplace like getting pulled over for speeding and paying a fine into something with greater consequences and costs, like delinquent payment fines and getting booted.

Drop the ticket, or send me the ticket and photo evidence and reset the notification date so I’m not stuck paying late fees.”

26 Comment

  • They will most certainly provide the photographic evidence.

    On of your arguments for not paying the ticket you are aware of is that you are not aware of the ticket…a bit of a head scratcher.

    • I think the OP’s point is that if there is no notification system of infractions how can we know that it is legitimate and more importantly, pay before the fee doubles in 30 days?

      For example. When I first moved into DC and acquired a DC license, I was told I had a 4 YEAR OLD delinquent ticket and my license had been suspended (only within the District).

      Sometimes while driving I will see the flash, but receive nothing in the mail. False alarm? or will I receive a letter threatening collections in a few months? Who knows.

      Photo enforcement has its problems.

    • I think the OP’s point is that the ticket was issued on 10/30, but had not been explicitly notified of the ticket – it was only happenstance that (s)he saw the ticket when logging in to pay a parking fine yesterday.

      To date, (s)he has not been notified of the ticket and has already incurred late fees.

      I’m going to have to agree with “K” below, though – assuming the photographic evidence exist (it probably would if you’ve been ID’d), you will likely have to pay the original fine, without late fees.

      The easy solution to all of this is for DC to return receipts for all of this kind of mail — signatures confirm you’ve seen that package.

      • I think that issue of not being notified in time has been discussed on this blog already– most of us who own cards have been that situation before.

        I’d like to see an online system that would allow us to link our vehicle(s) to an email address, and maybe a phone number as well. When a new ticket is added to the system, it would notify the user via email, text message, whatever.

        • They actually have one, at least in theory. I couldn’t get the signup to work, but maybe you’ll have better luck. Sign up here.

        • That would be to forward thinking and wouldn’t serve the vast community of DC residents without internet access/text messages…

          • I’m not saying drop the mail notifications altogether. Although it would be nice to have an opt-out for those who receive the email notifications. It would save some paper.

  • I completely empathize with you.
    If they want us to pay they have to notify us and mail us the photo.
    A good defense would be — “that’s not my car” — but how will you know without the photo.

  • My wife and I had the same thing happen, except we only found out when we received the notice doubling the fine. We wrote in and contested the late fee and only had to pay the original fine, though those have gone up quite a bit since we got the infractions.

    And if there is no photo evidence provided online (you can use the infraction number to pull up the actual photos online as well), then use that to fight the ticket. If in the photo, there is more than one clearly identifiable vehicle, you can also use that to fight the ticket since you can claim there is no way to determine which vehicle is responsible for triggering the camera.

    Believe me, I do not like the photo enforcement in DC either, but compared with the thieves in Montgomery County (on Connecticut coming back into the district from Chevy Chase where there are photo enforcement cameras on every block for several successive blocks) it is at least better. That said, I fear for my life driving anywhere near photo enforcement cameras because of the morons who see one and just stomp on their brakes, regardless of what the speed limit is at the time.

  • I’ve had the same situation happen to me. The best you can do is go to court. Which is what I did. They will most likely wave the late fee and issue you the original ticket. If it is indeed you in the picture then you will have to pay the original speeding ticket.

    • That’s not a great solution, though. If you had to miss 1.5 hours of work to get a $50 late fee waived, and your hourly rate is $33, you’ll just about break even.

  • I have an adjudication letter that was sent in a few months ago arguing a similar case… In my experience, the adjudication people actually make somewhat reasonable decisions and I’ll hopefully just have to pay the original ticket I was never notified of.

  • Traffic measures should serve as methods of constructive education, not tools to swindle drivers.

    Claim your rights Washingtonians:
    “No payment without notification”

  • Emmaleigh504

    Photo evidence is a must! I got a speeding ticket from Baltimore b/c the computer misread the blurry plate # and sent me the ticket. The Baltimore people were very nice and took care of it promptly.

  • In reading this post, my paranoia got the best of me and I wanted to see if I had any tickets I didn’t know about (none – win!)

    In case you’re curious, you can enter your plate number here and find out if you have any outstanding tickets against you (that you don’t know about):

  • I hear ya but man, that was a pretty rude letter. I feel like you’d have a better shot if you were polite! It’s not like the person reviewing your letter is personally responsible for you not receiving the ticket.

    • Also, I feel like any kind of prose is totally wasted on public servants. They receive and read dozens or hundreds of pieces of correspondence a day. Your umbrage will not register, and only serves to confuse and obscure your actual “ask”. Do a just the facts style letter, sans outrage. List only the most relevant facts, and end the letter with a request for your best possible outcome.
      Dear DMV:
      – I never received notification of ticket #1234.
      – I do not have any evidence that it applies to me
      – Please remove this citation from my record.
      Thank you,

      • agreed with WDC, it feels great to unload in a big huge letter, but my most effective communication with any government agency has been brief and to the point. i save the righteous anger for the small chance my request is denied. good luck to the OP!

      • +100

        I have been successful with this tactic for BS tickets on at least half a dozen occasions!

        I just imagine my audience is a older/disgruntled/longtime DC native that just wants to go home and not be yelled at via mail.

        • Sometimes I throw in a little humor, but yeah, keep it to the point. I once wrote in an additonal complaint that I witnessed the officer slam the ticket onto my windsheild so hard she knocked the wiper out of alignment, but then it occurred to me that the person reviewing the ticket probably doesn’t care.

    • +1 my thoughts exactly

  • It’s photo enforcement, so the facts are had to disprove. A calibrated speed measuring device clocked the speed of your vehicle, and it snapped a photo.

    Pay the damn ticket already; it’s a lot less stressful.

  • My car and license are registered to an old address. This means I wouldn’t get any notification. Because of this I log onto the DC DMV online site and check periodically ( I get a lot of parking tickets, etc). I had no outstanding tickets on the DC DMV site when I input my license plate number, but I got a call from a collection agency. They gave me the ticket number and when I input that, several tickets popped up under the license plate number that don’t appear when I only enter my license plate number. Point is, the DC DMV system is flaud and needs to be fixed.

    I know I need to update my address blah blah blah….

    • I gave up trying to update my address with the DMV– no proof of residence was acceptable to them.

      As I mentioned above, if we be nice if our vehicles could be linked to an email address or cell phoine number, which travels with us when we move.

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