Dear PoPville – Car Towed for No Reason

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

“Dear PoPville,

In my 6 plus years living in the District, I have usually shrugged off others’ claims of DC government incompetance as overblown, as I had yet to experiance it first hand; that is until Wednesday November 27th.

On that morning, I walked out of my apartment on 16th St around 745AM to get in my car and make the trek up to New England to visit my family for the holidays. Only when I got outside, my car was gone. Knowing that DPW often courtesy tows vehicles for unexpected street closings/repairs, I went to the DMV site to see if that had happened. When I entered my plate number into the site, it indicated that my car had been towed and impounded. The peculiar thing was that my car had been legally parked and I had no outstanding/defaulted parking tickets.

I cabbed down to DMV adjudication services to figure out what was up, and after speaking to multiple individuals, a very polite and professional supervisor indicated to me that my vehicle had been towed and impounded in SW. The best explanation they could come up with was that DPW had seen that I had multiple tickets (which were all under appeal and were later thrown out), and mistakenly towed my vehicle. The supervisor indicated that unless multiple tickets have been adjudicated or doubled, and are over 60 days delinquent, DPW has no legal right to tow my vehicle. Seeing that none of those conditions applied to me, I was shortly thereafter ushered to an administrative hearing where the original tickets were dismissed, as well as the tow and storage fee. Although the DMV employees gave me a half-hearted apology, no one could ultimately explain to me why DPW towed my vehicle in the first place. Additionally, when asked what could be done by others in the future to prevent this from happening to them, DMV could not come up with an explanation.

To put it mildly, this is not acceptable. DC not only delayed my trip by four hours, but they also cost me over $40 in cabs fees getting down to DMV and to the impound lot, that I will never get back. To make matters worse, when I visited the DMV site on Friday, the site still said my car was impounded and was accumulating additional storage fees (this was later corrected as well by a supervisor). Hopefully this post will encourage DMV and DPW to fix there process so that someone else’s car isn’t mistakenly towed as well.”

49 Comment

  • “Hopefully this post will encourage DMV and DPW to fix there process so that someone else’s car isn’t mistakenly towed as well.”

    Hahahahahahahahahahaha! That is so funny of you to actually believe someone will fix something. This city’s administrative system is broken and corrupt beyond repair. Just try get a building permit (as I currently am trying) and see what I mean.

    Additional examples you can Google and see have not changed despite considerable coverage: tax sales of houses, fire/EMS infrastructure and leadership, city vehicle double-parking in bike lanes, vacant property taxation, and much more! And let’s not forget Mayor Gray’s shadow campaign that is still unpunished beyond a few scapegoats. The man is our Mayor and we should demand some damned accountability. Fat chance.

    /Yes I am jaded after 8 years here. Alas, I will tough it out and keep my head down hoping I never have to deal with DC govt anymore/

    • I agree that what happened to the OP was shitty and DMV was way out of line towing the car, however I’d disagree with your characterization that all of DC gov’t is “broken and corrupt beyond repair.” In the 12 years that I’ve been living in the District I’ve seen a vast improvement in government services. Sure, the bar was low but at least I now have confidence that my trash will be picked up on time and that I might get a response when I file a complaint on

      • Yeah, and DC’s service are still a lot better than most town’s’ or cities’. Try living across the river in Fairfax County and you’ll see what a mess it is.

        • You’re kidding right… DC Government better than Fairfax County… as someone that has lived in both jurisdictions I’m not sure what planet you’re living on. DC Government is beyond middle class welfare and the service we get from our tax dollars is beyond reproach.

          • I’ve worked in MoCo and twice and the first time around, the building was filled with obvious code violations and yet it had taken months for an occupancy permit. Getting a previously approved t1 cable permitted and laid took almost a year. RideOn has lines that never seem close to being on time, well outside of rush hour.

            I suspect that most of the DC area’s “tiffany jurisdictions” suck in many ways.

          • Uhh… See the comments below?

        • you are absolutely wrong! many years ago when I was moving from Capitol Hill to Maryland (miss DC but who can afford to live here anymore?) I called to have a bulk trash pick up – needed to get rid of a couch that was in good condition but could not take with me. The person on the other end of the line told me “OK I’ve scheduled you for a pick up in 2 months!!!!” i had to ask this person 2 more times if this was correct and laughingly replied “yes”.

          In my border jurisdiction I can actually call and ask them to pick up my trash if by some chance they forgot to collect it and it will be gone the same day!

          There is no comparison in city services and unfortunately unless you know someone forget about getting something done.

          • For what it’s worth… last time I had to call for bulk trash pickup in D.C., they gave me a date about 1.5-2 weeks out.

          • And who does bulk pickup in MD? A service paid for by your HOA fees? Of course they’d be faster.

      • I agree with this. On the various occasions I’ve had to work with DC city services (i.e., fixing a property tax payment screwed up by my mortgage company, getting the city to provide rodent treatments to my alleyway, appealing property tax assessments, replacing lost driver’s license), I’ve been continuously impressed with the responsiveness of city services.

        Don’t get me wrong: OP’s experience certainly sucks and I am sympathetic to the inconvenience. I’m sure I’d be annoyed if I were in your shoes. But my experience, and my general impression of the experience of others, is that DC city services are doing a whole lot right over the past few years. Though I’m sure there is still much room for improvement.

  • That’s really annoying. If it makes you feel any better the VA DMV accidentally suspended my license a few years ago and it still causes problems for me from time to time.

    • VA DMV did the same to me…

    • Same for me too. I got pulled over for speeding years after moving out of Virginia and they nearly arrested me saying I was driving on a suspended license. I had to have my car towed 10 miles into DC because they wouldn’t let me drive it. Nightmare.

    • And to me. For not paying car tax, a year after i moved out of state, and had followed all the procedures for returning plates, etc. I only found out when I tried to switch car insurance, and the company searched my record. Total incompetence.

    • Whoa, it’s scary how common that apparently is! I thought I was just extremely unlikely. Fortunately I got a notice in the mail, a week after it had been suspended, but it was a pain to get fixed and it caused problems when I moved back to DC. Why is Virginia’s DMV such a mess?

    • Whoa, it’s scary how common that apparently is! I thought I was just extremely unlucky. Fortunately I got a notice in the mail, a week after it had been suspended, but it was a pain to get fixed and it caused problems when I moved back to DC. Why is Virginia’s DMV such a mess?

  • Yes, this stinks. But you got the situation corrected within four hours on the eve of a major holiday for $40.00. In the great scheme of things I’d say you should be thankful, accept the “half-hearted” apologies, and not worry too much about whether this happens again. It will, but “fixing the processes” of DMV and DPW are beyond the ken of mortal souls.

    • Totally agree on this point. The inconvenience is real and sucked, particularly given the timing, but DC owned up to its mistakes and fixed the problem in the space of a morning, at relatively little expense to OP. Plus, all those ticket appeals are now taken care of. Right hand (parking enforcement) obviously not talking to the left hand (adjudication services), but it’s not some great miscarriage of justice.

    • +1… at least your THANKSGIVING wasn’t ruined and you were able to drive to see your family, who are hopefully healthy, under a warm roof, and celebrate with a copious amount of food and drink. this is small stuff…

    • I agree this was a bad situation, but am willing to give the city a break here. They made a mistake, owned up to it, and fixed it, all relatively quickly. It sucks you lost $40 in the mess, but frankly if this had been a few years ago, you would have missed T’giving and probably still wouldn’t have your car. I hope you at least thanked the supervisor(s) you dealt with for getting this sorted out rather quickly and without forcing you to pay various fees by promising they would be “refunded,” which has happened to me.

    • This was my reaction too, though I know if it had happened to me I’d be indignant – largely out of the fear (and then anger) response to maybe not being able to get things resolved until after the long holiday weekend.

      I have to say: the DMV people seem like they were on the ball – they freed your car, quickly cleared up the pending ticket appeals and corrected the impound data. It sounds like DPW is the issue…though how/why they would know you had open tickets and were eligible for a tow (something that DMV seems in charge of) is a mystery.

    • Came here to say this. Seems like once they realized the error, they took care of it immediately, which is pretty shocking. In NYC, that wouldn’t happen. I’m not saying that this guy was lucky, but it does seem that after the initial oversight, that things seemed to go their way.

  • Seems to me that if you have only had one instance of experiencing “DC government incompetence” in six years of living here, you should still characterize others’ claims of systematic incompetence as overblown.

  • OP said: Although the DMV employees gave me a half-hearted apology, no one could ultimately explain to me why DPW towed my vehicle in the first place.

    But also said: The best explanation they could come up with was that DPW had seen that I had multiple tickets (which were all under appeal and were later thrown out), and mistakenly towed my vehicle.

    I’d say they did explain it to you. As you note, it is a flaw in the system. Although not a particularly surprising one. You note you had no outstanding tickets, but clearly that isn’t true as you later note that you had several you were appealing.

    All in all, this doesn’t sound particularly outrageous to me. You got a fairly quick resolution.

    • If you submit an appeal (checking “deny with explanation” on the ticket, and providing an explanation) within 30 days, the ticket is not supposed to be considered “outstanding.”

      • Do you think as soon as you drop that in the mail, somehow the DMV miraculously knows this? I’m just pointing out that there is some inconsisitency in the OP’s characterization of things. So I’m not necessarily sure I buy that the city egregiously erred in towing the car. When were the tickets given, disputed, etc.? All details conveniently missing from the story.

        By all accounts, it seems like a pretty quick and satisfactory resolution. Mistakes happen. It doesn’t seem like this is a pervasive issue in DC.

        • Seems pretty straightforward to me. You get 30 days to pay the ticket or submit an appeal. Within those 30 days, you’re not supposed to be penalized for not having paid the ticket yet. After that 30-day period is up, the DMV needs to have either your payment or appeal. Even after the 30-day period is up, I don’t think you’re liable to be booted/towed for an outstanding ticket (at least not if there’s just one ticket); they just add a late fee. I think it’s only after 60 days have elapsed that you’re in trouble.
          That’s how the system is supposed to work, and that’s how it usually works. However, it doesn’t always work that way — I once received a ticket for parking in a street-cleaning zone (the sign was missing), but knew nothing about it until I received a notice in the mail saying it was my “second notice” and that I was responsible for the original ticket amount plus a late fee.
          I appealed the ticket, including a photo of the signpost with no street-cleaning sign, and argued that even if I were held responsible for the ticket itself, the late fee ought to be dropped, since I had never received a “first notice” (either on my car or in the mail).
          To my surprise, my appeal was unsuccessful — the responder wrote that I should have driven around the block to see if there were any other signs.

        • I appealed the tickets online in the 30-day window at which point I receieved an email notification stating that DMV had received my appeal. Multiple times over the last year I called DMV to check the status and was told they were still under adjudication. The supervisor indicated last Wednesday that they are supposed to be adjudicated within a year but if they’re not that’s on DMV. They stated the tickets are not considered in default, nor is the car supposed to be towed unless the tickets have doubled (which they didn’t) and not paid within 60 days.

  • The same thing pretty much happened to me earlier this year. I was appealing several tickets, but DPW apparently didn’t care and booted and towed my car in the same day for the tickets under appeal.

    To get my car back, I had to pay the tickets I was appealing (forcing me to admit guilt when I wasn’t guilty) on top of the boot & impound fees.

  • This sounds like a horrible and unnecessary experience. It appears to me that there are big problems at DPW. Right now we are waiting for our trash to be picked up – it has been there since Saturday. I have made numerous calls about this. Sounds like Mr. Howland, the head of the agency, needs to go.

    • Really? You want the top guy sacked because your trash hasn’t been picked up? I’m afraid you’ll probably be spending much of the rest of your life in a state of disappointment and outrage.

  • Better than awful isn’t really an endorsement of functional city services. Yes, seems like DMV and DPW are working better. But how about they just impound NO vehicles on the busiest travel day of the year? Even if there is a .001 percent chance that they might be wrong – would it hurt so much to wait until after a major holiday?

  • I think I’m just echoing what other’s have said but this seems like an overreaction.

    Someone made a mistake at their job (as if we all haven’t done that once or twice). When you reported the mistake, the DC government made you pretty much whole just about as fast as humanly possible.

    Sorry about the $40 and 4 hours, but if that’s the type of injustice that you think is blog-worthy than you lead a charmed life.

    • Stealing 4 hours of your life on an ordinary Wednesday sucks, but is acceptable for a general city govt. screw-up. But on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving? When most everyone in the entire country is trying to travel somewhere? Absolutely no excuse – for anyone – anytime. Someone actually should be fired for that.

      • That statement is moronic. The world does not revolve around your vacation schedule. Wednesday is not a holiday. The city acted like it would on any other day.

        Sounds like maybe the OP should stop getting so many tickets that they would even get mistakenly towed.

  • Welcome to the DC that the rest of us have been battling for years. Just wait till you get to interact with the Office of Tax and Revenue (then you’ll experience the real fun!).

    • I once requested a document from that office, (totally routine, no emergency or error to correct or anything) and it was hand delivered to my office later the same day.

    • OTR is pretty good in my experience. I recently had an issue with them (they owed me money) and it took a couple of phone calls, but they were responsive and sent me my money in fairly short order.

  • Sounds like using Metro/Cabi/Bus would solve all your problems. Not much sympathy for car problems when you live in a city.

    • Stupid comment for a couple reasons but I’ll go with the obvious one: OP’s main problem was how to get to New England on Wednesday and I don’t think using Metro/Cabi/Bus would actually solve that.

    • Did you even read the original post? I don’t have much sympathy for people who complain about speed cameras, traffic, etc., but this was a case of someone who was parked legitimately and inexplicably towed. I’d define this as a D.C. government problem, not a car problem.

      • Sounds like the OP should focus on getting fewer parking tickets.

        • The OP said those tickets were later thrown out. So it sounds like the tickets weren’t justified in the first place.
          In general I don’t have much sympathy for people who moan about parking tickets — most of the time in D.C., if you pay attention to the signs, you’ll be fine. But there ARE times when parking enforcement screws up. And given that the OP’s tickets were thrown out, it sounds like that was the case with his/her tickets.

          • But were the tickets thrown out when the car was towed? No. Reading comprehension.

          • You might want to do some re-reading yourself.
            1) The tickets were _under appeal_ at the time. When a ticket is under appeal, it doesn’t count as an outstanding ticket for the purpose of booting/towing a car.
            2) Your point was that the OP “should focus on getting fewer parking tickets.” That’s what I was responding to.

          • It wasn’t clear to me if the tickets were thrown out just to resolve this issue and get the OP on the road or because they would have been thrown out through the normal process. But I do have to say that seeing that the OP had *multiple* tickets outstanding (even if being contested) made my eyebrow rise a little.

    • That’s just silly. I’m pretty sure metro bus doesn’t travel to New England. Are we a bit slow?

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