Dear PoPville – Parking Ticket BS


“Dear PoPville,

I got a parking ticket the other day. This ticket is complete B.S. An overgrown tree clearly obscures the sign. I’ve enclosed 4 pictures of the parking spot. Note that the car pictured is not mine, but my car was parked where the car is parked in the pictures. The third picture is actually a close up of the sign, and even then you can barely see the sign.

What’s worse is that the officer had the gall to write “Sign Clearly Visible Front.” I’m contesting the ticket, but it disturbs me that a public servant has made a written statement that is clearly a lie. How many other false tickets has this officer written?”


More photos after the jump.



82 Comment

  • You can clearly see the sign’s pole in all four pictures. I personally would have seen the pole, and assumed there is a parking sign attached to it and made an effort to read it. Sorry you got a ticket, but I don’t think it was outrageous of them to do so. Good luck contesting it.

  • Dude. If you see a sign, check it. Move the branches. From those photos I can tell you cannot park there.

  • PDleftMtP

    Send the pictures with your appeal. Forget about tracking down and punishing the parking enforcement person. Not going to happen.

    • ah


      I’m pretty sure “Sign clearly visible” is a field the enforcement folks tick on their handheld enforcement tools basically to establish that there is a sign. You are free to dispute that it is fact is “clearly visible” just as you are free to dispute things like whether the meter ran out or that you stayed beyond two hours.

      For $25 or $50 to me it’s not worth more than taking a shot with a mail-in appeal.

      • As a dc ticketwriter, I can confirm this is the case

        • Ooh, why don’t ticketwriters ticket cars parked in the public space? It wouldn’t bother me so much, except that nearly all cars parked in the public space are also blocking the sidewalk, and I live near St. Coletta’s so there are tons of kids with mobility issues who can’t use a third of the sidewalks in our neighborhood because ticketwriters ignore these illegally parked cars.

        • Why don’t ticketwriters issue tickets on Sundays to all the illegally parked cars? Are there direct orders from high above to not issue tickets to churchgoers?

    • I’ve successfully done this exact same challenge. Send in your photos and tell them the sign wasn’t visible — that it was blocked by a tree.

      But don’t park there again, because you will have established that you know the sign exists.

  • you sound entitled. it is your job as a driver to notice the sign.

    • Sorry I’m not sympathetic, but after 15 years I’ve learned to *LOOK FOR* the signs. They’re not going to come chasing after you for attention. Whenever I park, I first assume there’s a good chance its illegal to park there, then check the signs to confirm. Some signs are so complicated you need to stop the car and park first just to get out and read/translate the sign or collection of signs.

  • This is not so different from parking 30 feet back from a sign, where you have to get out and read what it says. Pay the ticket and move on.

  • “Sign Clearly Visible” obviously isn’t the right classification of this ticket, but it is obvious that there is a pole visible with a sign attached. It’s your responsibility to bushwhack through that forest to read the sign.

  • You can see the sign post. Should have checked to see what was atop it.

    • andy

      Yeah. Is there anyone who didn’t see the post in this picture? Is there anyone who, after seeing the post, wouldn’t check what it said?

  • If you live in DC then you should know better than to just park your car and walk away. ALWAYS check for signs near your car. And the pole is a dead giveaway if you park less than 2 feet from it.

    • exactamundo

    • Yeah, it’s pretty unusual to be able to park somewhere without any restrictions whatsoever. The OP is probably fairly new to DC. I know I got a handful of tickets my first few years here, not because I was intentionally violating the rules but because it’s easy to not see signs or misread them. It’s frustrating when you sincerely try to park legally all the time, but it’s not worth getting worked up over. There’s no penalty for contesting a ticket in DC, and lots of contested tickets get dismissed, so I’d give that a try. Don’t be whiny in the explanation, just succinctly state the facts and include the photos for reference. If the ticket’s not dismissed (I’d be surprised if it weren’t) just pay it and chalk it up to the cost of parking in a city.

    • Winner – -you are completely right.

  • Just learn to always always always to look for signs. Whether it is BS or not, you help yourself by being vigilant when you park. When this happens to me, I break the branches away to expose the sign as best I can.

  • Though it is outrageous, I would be very surprised if they accepted any appeal in this case, given that you were technically parked illegally. It is getting ridiculous with tickets, to the point where it is no different than extortion or theft in many cases.

    For example, I contested three ridiculous tickets this year but the appeals board rejected all of them. In one, I’d never even been to the place they said I parked and never received the ticket. They must have written the license plate down wrong and gotten me by mistake (only found out when I logged on to pay another ticket). I appealed saying that I had never been there and to check to see if the make and model of car matched. The rejection to my appeal only stated that the meter was functioning properly.

    In the second, I was given a ticket for parking in front of a stop sign. The only problem, there was no stop sign there. The photo online accompanying my ticket did not show a stop sign. In fact, there is no stop sign on the whole entire street that I was parked on. I pointed out that you can verify this on Google Street View, but they still rejected my appeal.

    The third ticket was for parking during street sweeping at 10 pm in DuPont. The sign was so faded it was illegible (and the photo accompanying my ticket just showed a blank white sign). Additionally, the ticket was issued in February and there is no street sweeping during the winter months. They also rejected this appeal.

    • Huh, maybe they’ve gotten tougher in recent years. I’ve gotten lots of BS tickets dismissed, but as I’ve wised up over the years I don’t find myself getting them anymore.

      • I never had a problem getting BS tickets dismissed until this year. I don’t know if it’s just bad luck, or if they’ve gotten worse, but it really is making me feel like the city is stealing money from me.

        • Aww man, I hope they’re not getting tougher. I always felt assured that if I genuinely looked for signs and didn’t mean to park illegally I could get my tickets dismissed. If what you’re saying is true it will certainly make me think twice about parking in unfamiliar places.

        • I used to get a lot of BS tickets. Now I park legally. Both ways still cheaper than garage or lot space, which is kind of sad.

    • wow that makes me angry. especially number 2

      • Definitely! These are much worse than the OP. These kind of abuses should just not be possible in a society of laws and information.

    • stop signs are usually at corners. there is a minimum distance that you must be from a corner, so if you were near where a stop sign should have been, you were still parked illegally.

    • you’re making this up. no way are they issuing street sweeping tickets in the winter then refusing to overturn them on appeal. i’ve appealed a handful of tickets over the years and every time they have been overturned with just a quick letter to the address on the back. on the other hand, sometimes when i’ve been caught parked illegally i just pay it rather than whining online about my misfortune.

      • Please don’t accuse me of making this up, I’m not a complainer and very very rarely post anything online. I never had problems in previous years getting bad tickets dismissed and have been very vigilant in recent years with parking. I’ve always paid tickets without complaint if it happens that I missed a sign, etc. What gets me is that in at least two of the cases I definitely did not commit the infraction cited, so it almost feels like I’ve had that money stolen.

        On the street sweeping one, I ended up paying it because I was technically parked illegally even though the sign was illegible and it was during the winter. Because it was in a commercial zone instead of residential, they apparently don’t have date limits on that. On the others I paid the extra $10 to contest them again, because it was obvious in the responses that the hearing examiner did not even read my appeal. We’ll see what the final outcome is.

      • saf

        I used to be able to get BS tickets dismissed every time.

        Lately, I don’t think they even read the letters – they just deny the appeal.

  • Yeah I should have mentioned that I parked the car the night before. And no, you definitely can’t see the pole at night.

    I actually didn’t discover the ticket until the following afternoon. And that’s when I took the pictures. I’m clearly not the only person who has made that mistake.

    If you guys are cool with public servants lying on official statements, I guess that’s your prerogative. But I have a problem with that.

    • Come on, man. Very few streets are unzoned and common sense would have told you to check the other side of the block, at the very least. If the sign in front of you was covered, there most likely was one at the other end that had the exact same information. Don’t act like this is some kind of civil rights violation. You messed up, pay the fine.

    • Unfortunately the ticketing officers work during the day, and don’t know you parked there at night. To them the signpost is visible.
      Also, I think they have to file the ticket under a certain category, and “Sign Clearly Visible Front” is the one that best applied to this situation. I’m sure if there were a “Sign Obstructed by Foliage But Signpost Clearly Visible Front” they would have used it. It’s kinda silly to accuse them of lying here.

    • Also if you care about other people getting the same ticket? Take a minute to file a 311 request asking that the tree be trimmed.

    • if you are able just to pull into the back of a row of cars without parallel parking, that is another clue that you might be parking illegally. it’s not clear from the pictures if you’re near an intersection (which would indicate there’s a sign nearby, you can never park all the way to the intersection), or if there is a long row of cars in front of the sign, but i bet there were more clues than just the pole to indicate this was an illegal spot.

  • It seems from the photos posted that you can see that no parking is permitted behind the sign. The red “no parking behind this sign” is certainly visible.

    Yes it is obscured somewhat by the trees, but if you are familiar with DC parking you know that you need to take proactive measures to check the signs every time you park in an unfamiliar location. Failure to do so will result in tickets–repeatedly for most of us! If you park someone and don’t check for a sign (is there a block in DC without a parking sign!?) it’s on you when you are parked illegally. Even if the sign is a bit up the block/obscured by leaves.

    Good luck fighting the ticket, but save the vitriol towards the ticketer who was doing his/her job. If the sign obstruction bothers you, call DDOT and ask them to trim the tree.

  • Also, while I’m sympathetic that you may not be able to see the pole in the dark, most streets in DC have a sign at the end of the block indicating the point beyond which you may not park. Especially true in Ward 1 where parking is nuts. So in the future, the safe approach is to look for that sign when you are parking near an intersection/alley/driveway etc. Being a bit proactive will save you a lot of money on tickets in this town!

  • Was the sign there because it’s near an intersection and you can’t park between that sign and the intersection? Because if so, then it’s exactly like almost every other street in DC and you should know that parking is prohibited within a certain distance of the intersection. Playing dumb and saying you didn’t see the sign, when it’s the law across the district and you see the same signs at nearly every intersection doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

  • Contest it and see what happens
    Admit Fault, Cite the obstructed view ( if you have time, look up signage law, there has to be something about obstructed views) and see if they can lower the fine.

    Don’t let it go unpaid though, DC will find you… and fine you more.

    • andy

      even if you weren’t that reasonable in not checking for signs – still contest it. maybe get it knocked down a bit, and at minimum shame some people who shouldn’t let trees interfere with signs like that.

  • Just deny the ticket, send them a well-written (and apologetic) paragraph along with these pics. They will dismiss it.

    Although I have to agree with the other commenters here that it’s not really “outrageous”. In the city you should always assume you are parking illegally until you have verified otherwise.

  • KSB

    Reminds me of a citation I received last year for parking in a two-hour zone, only the sign that indicated this was missing from the sign post. Totally gone – I took photos after receiving the citation and there’s clearly a blank space where the sign should have been, but obviously it’s not there. My appeal was rejected because the signage was clearly visible THE NEXT BLOCK OVER. Not the block I parked on, but the next block over. And of course I received the bulls*t denial of appeal on the day I was going to the hospital to have a baby and I was given only three days to appeal again. So it didn’t happen. But 100% complete BS (accompanied by supporting photos.)

    • The same thing happened to me — the sign indicating that there was street cleaning on Thursday nights starting at 10 p.m. was not among the signs on the signpost I had parked RIGHT NEXT TO.
      Very frustrating. I’d been successful before in appealing BS tickets (like a ticket issued at 8:45 a.m. for not having paid the meter… when meter enforcement didn’t begin until 9 a.m.), but I was not successful in appealing this one. It was two years ago, and I’m still mad about it.

  • Yeah, good luck with that. I tried appealing parking tickets recently and they’re pretty ruthless. My neighborhood recently had all these Zone only parking signs pop up with no warning, and I received three tickets for parking on a street I have parked on for four years, not realizing that they had this whole new Zone only parking (zones changes by crossing a street). The sign was way down at the end of the street and not on every sign. And even with pictures and a plea for at least just giving me only 1 ticket rather than 3, nothing. Had to pay the whole damn thing.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Please also call 311 and report that the sign is partially hidden so that tree can get trimmed.

  • I need some ticket advice.

    I rented a car from Hertz last September for a weekend trip.

    A few months later a receive a piece of mail from the DC DMV addressed to a woman’s name, but it’s for my address (my exact building and apartment number). I toss it on a stack of junk mail and forget about it. Two months ago, I get around to opening that piece of mail and it’s a camera speeding ticket. It’s for the same exact date on my car rental, but this random woman’s name is attached to the ticket. I have no idea who she is, but the fine is for $250 dollars ($125 for speeding + $125 late penalty, as the ticket was not paid on time). Furthermore, Hertz sent a letter to my apartment addressed to this woman demanding a $25 administrative fee for handling the ticket processing.

    What would you do? I looked up the ticket online and I am in no way connected to this ticket. This woman’s name appears on the online DC DMV database as being responsible for the ticket. I am renting my apartment from a real estate management company, so perhaps they’ve attached the building owner’s name to the ticket? I have no idea.

    Any advice?

    • ah

      When you say you have “no connection” to this ticket, do you mean it’s for a car other than the one you rented from Hertz? If that’s the case, then check with the real estate management company for a forwarding address and let her deal with it.

      If it *is* the car you rented from Hertz, but the ticket was for, say, the previous or subsequent renter (based on time you rented) then tell Hertz it’s not you but someone else.

      • I was living in the same apartment I’m in now when I rented the car.
        The previous tenants were a male gay couple who lived here for years. I don’t think it was a previous tenant.
        The license plate attached to the ticket is from Florida. I have no idea what the license plate for my rental car was, but many rental cars have out-of-state plates. There is no photo attached to the ticket, so I can’t verify that it is me.

        Is it possible to call the DC DMV and check to see if there’s any actions pending against you? The DC DMV website only allows you to track/create alerts for a particular license plate, not an individual driver.

    • tonyr

      I regularly get mail addressed to someone else (name not mentioned for obvious reasons) from the DC Department of Corrections. I religiously return it to sender, but still they keep coming. How likely is it that one night the SWAT team will break down my door and drag me away?

    • Are you saying that you weren’t actually driving the rental car, and weren’t in the vicinity of the ticket when the camera snapped the car speeding, but this random woman was and yet somehow your address got attached to it? Or that you *were* driving the car, and somehow they’ve attached some other person’s name to the ticket? Is the rental car on the ticket the same one that you rented? Either way, I’d say first step, contact Hertz (because it’s probably easier than starting with the DMV) and see if they can figure out where/how the mix-up with her name and your address occurred. Then, depending on the outcome of that, ditto with the DMV. If it was indeed you driving the car at the point it got ticketed, then do the right thing and straighten out the name issue and pay up (or straighten up the name issue and contest the ticket, if you prefer)–otherwise, some poor woman’s driving record is going to get dinged for an erroneous ticket that she has no idea she received.

      • I honestly don’t know if it’s my rental car. The license plate is from Florida, but I don’t know the plate of my rental. I was definitely in town that day and driving all over the city (the ticket was from Florida Ave, which I think I drove on that day).

        It could be a case of the camera taking a photo and capturing multiple license plates and then the information was somehow messed up. Or perhaps Hertz sent the wrong information to the DMV (but somehow they got the right address?)

        I guess I will contact Hertz and see what the issue is. I was just wondering if there was any way to check the DMV records and see if there are any outstanding tickets against my license. I can’t find anything on the DMV website to check online.

        • Did you actually talk to anyone at Hertz about it? I am sure they would have some record of it, along with the information about the car you drove. Sitting on this and not calling around is only going to cost you more.

        • ah

          This is tough — total gamble.

          One possibility is that the ticket is not yours and somehow it ended up coming to your house. If that’s the case, doing nothing is the best approach because they basically have no connection to you other than an address. How could the city claim you owed money on a ticket that just happened to be sent to someone else at your address? And if you’re worried about the woman, she too can claim she never received the ticket.

          The other possibility is that the ticket is yours and Hertz provided the wrong name but right address. In that case, you run the risk that Hertz eventually figures it out and sends the ticket to you.

          Of course, if you call to confirm the ticket isn’t yours, they may say “oh, what’s your name again? It *is* yours!”

          In your situation, I might well gamble that nothing ever happens.

          BTW, exactly what service did Hertz provide for $25? I would gladly have them not provide my name to the DMV and keep my $25.

          • The unknown woman could claim she never received the ticket, but it would still be open on her record–which if it’s not hers would be really unfair, and would cause a hassle to her, especially if it continued to accumulate late fines. It’s a hassle for the OP, but the right thing to do is find out for sure whether he committed the speeding offense, pay up if he did, or if he didn’t then give Hertz the heads-up so that they can at least try to straighten it out. And it sounds like he’s attempting to do that now. As for the $25, that is not for any service to the renter, but a fee meant to recoup Hertz’ costs for dealing with their rental client getting a ticket. Of course they’re not going to NOT provide the name to the DMV; they don’t want to be liable for the ticket themselves. My sister got a similar ticket while driving a rental car, and there’s an affadavit or some kind of legal paperwork involved in order for the ticket to pass through the rental company and on to the driver (esp in a camera situation where all the police know is that it’s a Hertz fleet vehicle, not who’s driving). The $25 is their fee for the staff time spent working on that.

    • Why in the world did you open the letters? They weren’t addressed to you. You should’ve returned them to sender. If you call Hertz and admit that you opened the letters you’re admitting that you committed a federal offense. You should wait until you get another one and return it to sender – person not at address (or another short note like that).

    • Was the ticket for a time you had possession of the car, and an intersection you drove through? Then it’s probably your ticket. The Ethicist would probably suggest that you pay it.

  • I find it a little disturbing so many people feel the city has no responsibility to maintain its signage.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you put up a sign to indicate what you want me to do? Wouldn’t you want me to be able to see that? This was an ideal opportunity for the officer to put in a work order to correct the obstruction.

    If the city has the manpower to write a ticket for a sign they haven’t maintained, they should make sure they fix the problem…which they’ll have money for right after the ticket is paid.

    • Yeah, but cut them some slack. With all the rain we’ve been having lately things have been growing like crazy and this probably happened over the course of only a week or two. Besides I don’t think the parking enforcement folks are the ones that maintain trees.

      • My argument to that is then follow that logic and cut the citizens some slack (especially adding insult to injury and physically writing “Sign Clearly Visible Front”). It “costs” the city nothing because they didn’t have this money in the fist place, but it costs those they are ticketing real dollars.

  • you parked right next to the pole but were too careless to read the sign on the pole?
    your attempts to rationalize your innocence is ridiculous.
    the ticket is bs. your argument is.

  • lol every time I see a posting about “parking” it makes me chuckle.

    Couple of points…

    1. Why would DC clearly know the sign can not be seen (as the agent was right there) and do nothing about it? Why would they not put the sign clearly out in an unobstructed area? I have my personal thoughts as to why, but I would like to know their official stance on the thought. I got a ticket once where the post had been removed by some road workers and was laying face down on a sidewalk. Now why would I go picking up signs on a sidewalk to see what they may mean?

    2. If the guy had not said there was a sign in the pictures I would have never seen it or noticed a pole, just saying…………..

    3. I would love to see some data on how many parking tickets are handed out in South East. : )

    • You wouldn’t have noticed the poll? It’s obvious in every pic.

      It’s bs that the city doesn’t ensure that the sign is clear but where ever you park in DC, check the signs on the street. There is not anywhere that you are going to park that had absolutely no restrictions (I don’t think).

    • Seriously on the SE. I got one last week near Eastern Market (in my zone) for parking “less than five feet from an alley.” Didn’t even know that was a rule, and seems odd since on my block of East Cap, the lines indicating where you can park come within well under five feet of an alley. Anyone else had one of those? It’s a $20 ticket, which somehow makes it even more irritating.

      • Whoa, what? I live near Eastern Market, right next to an alley, and my neighbors and I park less than 5 feet from the entrance all the time. The 2-hour parking sign is just a few inches from the alley, and I thought it was fine to park there as long as we weren’t past the sign. As far as I know no one’s ever gotten ticketed for being too close to the alley.

    • Just because you would not have noticed the pole doesn’t mean it’s pretty clearly there. People are human–we get distracted and have moments when we’re just out of it and failing to pay good attention. But that doesn’t mean we’re absolved of all responsibility. I say this as someone who got ticketed AND towed because I failed to notice a “no parking from 4:00-6:00pm” sign a few spaces up the block (and I parked a while before 4:00 when the street was still packed with yet-to-be-moved cars, so that didn’t raise any red flags in my mind). I was rushing and not really paying attention. The consequences (both financial and time-wasting) sucked, to be sure, but it’s not like it was some huge injustice perpetrated on me.

  • I always see people try to park in this spot and what these pictures don’t show is that it is clearly right next to the edge of an intersection where parking would not be allowed.

    And every time someone does park there and I try to turn on this street, i can never see if another car is coming in the opposite direction.

  • You have a good case if you present it the right way. Include the first and third pictures (the others actually hurt your case) and politely and factually argue your position.. I have contested at least 5 tickets by mail during my time in DC and had each one overturned.

    • Doesn’t hurt to try to contest the ticket, and +1 on the “polite and factual” approach. Sometimes you gotta take a humble, and it’s far more beneficial than outrage. Everyone I know who’s appeared in court to request a dismissal, and sat through a bunch of other tickets on the docket has told me that the folks who admit responsibility and an honest mistake and show a little contrition were far more likely to get their tickets dismissed than the petitioners who huffed and raged. I imagine same goes true for contesting tickets virtually.

  • My complaint is simply that there should be some easy procedure for the DPW parking enforcement folks to alert whomever would trim this street tree (also DPW?) that it’s blocking the sign. Not to say you shouldn’t have received a ticket, but the writer should notice that it’s a problem and report it so that it can be addressed.

    This same system should exist for cops to report traffic signs that are AFU, or broken stop signs, etc.

    • I’m pretty sure that the Urban Forestry administration is is responsible for all tree trimming. They are under DDOT.

  • 1. Are there enough streets in the district without signs that would make it safe to park somewhere without looking for a sign? I always look where I park, because I assume there is a sign somewhere, even if its not directly in front of way I am. Laziness is not an excuse.

    2. To borrow from MPD, if you see something, read something …

  • I’ve had one or two of these tickets over the years – there was a sign somewhere that said whatever and I didn’t notice it, or you couldn’t see it well, or worse it was only on one pole on the whole block and I wasn’t parked anywhere near it. I’ve just learned, as I am driving on a given block, watch for the signs as I go down the street looking for a space. When I find a space, I then know where the signs are to go read them and make sure I’m compliant with them. Even if the “Street Sweeping” sign is 100′ away on a different pole, you will still get the ticket and they will not let you out of it.

    Also, it’s difficult to tell from these photos WHY there is no parking to the right of the sign, but it’s helpful to learn those rules anyway. In general, if there’s a curb cut for a driveway, an alley, an intersection, a crosswalk, or whatever else, don’t park there. The city is not required to even post a sign telling you not to do it – it’s in the driver’s ed book and you are responsible for knowing, for example, you cannot park within 10′ of an intersection, and not parking there even if there is no sign. So while the OP might not have seen the sign, he may very well have seen the curb cut or the crosswalk or whatever that caused the sign to be put up in the first place, at which point the fact that the trees grew over the sign won’t help his case.

  • unlikely it was the only sign on the street (guess they all could have been obscured). I usually assume some restriction on DC streets and try to determine what applies (meter, zone, no parking, etc). I look elsewhere if it seems totally ambiguous.

    Guess I’m with the growing chorus of nays

  • I’m sorry about the ticket and I understand how upset you are. Maybe future tickets could be alleviated if you could contact the City to have the tree trimmed.

  • I think more people would be sympathetic to your story if you lost the outrage and sense of entitlement.

    It sucks, the sign should be more obvious – but you also made a mistake. Since the burden is shared between the city for not keeping their signs visible and you for not noticing the sign, you shouldnt have to pay the ticket – but… you should at least admit you made a mistake.

  • You should have known that a space with so much shade is verboden.

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