From the Forum – Taking a Ticket Beyond Appeal

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Taking a Ticket Beyond Appeal:

“So about 6-12 months ago (I forget how long it’s been now) I received a parking ticket in the mail. The kicker is I don’t own a car and haven’t since December 2011. I called 311 to speak to someone about it and she pulled up the ticket online which clearly showed the officer had written the wrong license plate number on the ticket versus what was shown in the photo of the car. I guess that incorrect plate # linked to me somehow? Not really sure, but somehow it found its way to my address. She said there’s no way I should be responsible because of the obvious photographic error, and transferred me over to someone in charge of ticketing (DPW maybe?), but I just got the voicemail of that woman, and naturally she never returned my message.

So I mailed in my appeal stating my pretty simple to resolve case, and a few months later received a notice that my appeal was rejected due to a “preponderance of evidence against me”. Ummm, OK, if anything there’s a “preponderance” the other way, so I sent in my second appeal to “The Board” along with a check which is required to further appeal any ticket, just in case they still disagree with you. At this point I was considering just saying F-this and have them come after me if they really care to, but I wanted to fight this one just on principle alone. Well I noticed today they actually cashed the check a while back and never even sent a followup letter explaining why, after reviewing 2 obvious pieces of information 1) I don’t own a car and 2) wrong license plate number.

So, my question is, does anyone know who to take this to further? It’s only $30, an insignificant amount, but the fact that 1) an officer got it wrong, 2) the person who reviewed my appeal ignored obvious facts, and 3) the entire appeals board ignored obvious facts, really has me quite pissed off. I know if it’s happening to me it’s happening to others too, on much higher ticket fines. This kind of blatant disregard for the citizenry who pays their salaries shouldn’t be tolerated.”

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41 Comment

  • I also received a ticket for a tag number that was associated with a car that I sold like 4 years ago. I was able to win the appeal by showing them that the car was sold (I enclosed a bill of sale).

    I think that there was some sort of computer glitch with DC parking enforcement a few months ago that resulted in a bunch of tickets going to the wrong tag numbers.

  • i posted about this once before- but i was out of town and forgot to leave my key with a friend to move prior to street sweeping. i was ticketed and then “courtesy towed” for being parked during the sweeping, which is the first and only time i have ever heard of this happening. as the sign technically says “tow zone” i supposed there wasnt much for me to stand on in my appeal of the tow. the kicker was they towed me to a meter where i got subsequent tickets while i was out of town. i contested all of the tickets and my appeal was rejected. i thought it was completely ridiculous that i had to pay the metered parking tickets as i didn’t park my car there. i considered pursuing beyond my initial appeal, but figured the time and effort necessary were not worth it to pursue what would likely end up with “well this wouldnt have happened if you werent parked in a tow zone.” in your case however, i would definitely pursue it as you don’t even own a vehicle, though i am not sure how to go about doing this. isnt there a court option?
    as a side note i truly hate street parking a car in the district. even setting phone alarms to remind me of street sweeping, and other bullshit reasons they seem to have to nickel and dime you i still end up with 3-4 tickets a year for random stuff. lets just go ahead and call this what it is, a user tax on those owning cars.

    • you break the law, you pay the price.

    • Except that the RPP is like 1% of the cost of an actual parking space. So any ticket is really still less than leasing a parking space.

    • gotryit

      I know street sweeping is far from perfect, but skipping it altogether would be awful. It’s not a bullshit reason. Just move your car.
      I say that as someone who gets a couple of tickets a year because I forget.

      • I volunteer to drive the carpool to school on street sweeping mornings, because that’s the only way I’m sure to remember where my car is parked and make sure it gets moved in time.

    • It’s not a tax. Or it’s a voluntary tax. Actually, call it whatever you want to, but you don’t have to pay it if you do things right. Don’t blame the city because you can’t keep track of where and when you park your car, and you can’t or won’t shell out for a private parking spot.

    • i mean dude, you didn’t move your car, and the sign says you will be towed if you don’t move your car during street sweeping. i have also been courtesy towed, it sucks, but i forgot to move my car. the point is that you then move your car from wherever they courtesy towed it to, so you don’t get more tickets. i can see being pissed off because you forgot to move it, but the whole system is pretty explicit about how it works.

      • i did mention i was out of town for a week when i got courtesy towed right?
        i get that it is a “tow zone” but arent all parking offenses technically towable? i worked from home for a year and would sit right in that window overlooking my street and watch the meter maid come by like clockwork right when sweeping started. i agree they need to sweep. i understand why they ticket. when i found that i had my car key still when i got to my destination i knew i would get a ticket. however in the year i worked from home i never once saw anyone get towed so you can imagine my surprise when i returned home to no car, finding it 2 blocks away in a metered spot with a wad of tickets over several days. over $200 worth. if they are going to tow you for illegal parking couldnt they tow you to a legal parking spot?

        • They do this to everyone. My girlfriend was “courtesy towed” twice – first time was to a metered spot, where she accumulated another ticket. I think it cost her over $250 in total fines. That was a shitty day.
          The second time, they towed us across the street into a “free” street spot but only gave her a $25 ticket…..which has yet to show up in the DMV system, so I guess it’s just lost. We got lucky with that one.
          Also, who care if you were out of town?!? How is the tow driver supposed to know that? I guess you’ve learned your lesson – keep a spare key at home at all times.

          • sure. a $35 mistake is one thing. i screwed up- id pay that. but a $35 becoming a $200+ because that particular day they decided they were actually going to tow just sucks. the “i was out of town” was more in reference to people saying i should have moved it faster after it was courtesy towed to accumulate fewer tickets. i dont expect special treatment for being out of town. but it sure was special to be gone the one week they decided to tow…

        • It’s your responsibility to find a place to legally park your car when you’re away on vacation. You don’t get a free pass. Sorry.

          • People are so unsympathetic here. Hasn’t anyone had a flight cancelled or a business trip go a day longer than you thought possible so you missed moving your car on time? Sometimes things happen and $35/40/whatever the base ticket is seems like an okay “just life” consequence. But when you get towed (is that really necessary given that it is weekly street sweeping) to a restricted or metered spot, it turns a oh-man-that-sucks-but-that’s-life moment into actual financial hardship.

          • I think the reason people are unsympathetic is that your beef seems to be “It says ‘tow-away zone,’ but I don’t usually see them towing. So why did they have to tow _me_?”
            A tow-away zone is a tow-away zone. Maybe the DMV doesn’t follow through and actually tow as frequently as it could on your particular block, but it’s not as though they didn’t give you fair warning.

    • Sounds like it would have been cheaper for your friend to pay to have your car towed to someplace where it wouldn’t get tickets than to leave it next to a meter. Did he/she not notice your car was towed?

      ps: In the future, just leave a extra set of keys with a reliable friend year round. It pays off in emergencies like this.

  • You may want to try going to the DMV in person either by scheduling in advance or as a walk-in.

  • fight this til the end. maybe you’ll get to someone who cares. if you don’t, nothing will improve.

    • what is there to fight? he broke the law. would he have preferred the city tow him to a private lot where he could pay hundreds of dollars to get his car released?

  • I think you should write to your council member and/or the mayor’s office and complain. Don’t just say F this, because they will care, and they’ll offset your tax refund to get the money.

    • I second this. I had an issue with the DMV a couple years ago where a ticket I had paid wasn’t logged in the system and my license got suspended. I contacted Tommy Wells’ office, and it was taken care of in a couple hours.

  • If you have a competent council-member, aka Tommy Wells, then his office should be able to put you in touch with the right people or even talk to them on your behalf.

  • gotryit

    You should be able to recover attorney fees for going after DC for something stupid like this. Truly ridiculous. I really wonder if it’s incompetence or malice on their part.

  • I’m not sure cashing the check means you lost. They probably do that all the time and then send you a DC check for the amount if your appeal was upheld. Once you got bounced at the initial level, I would have asked for a hearing so the examiner has to look you in the face and tell you that you own a car.

    I once got a speeding camera ticket on a car that had my same license plate # (it was a low number tag) from VA and was the same make but not model number as my car. I won that one but still what a coincidence.

    • I had a ticket that I contested and lost the first time around. I then appealed that decision and won, but DC did cash the check I wrote and then refund the check 6 months later.

  • Pay the fine and then clear your name and get your money back! I say pay it because in theory you could get a bench warrant for unpaid tickets. If they can go as far as issuing the wrong person a ticket who knows how far they could take it. If possible let us know how it goes. We need to shame them into improving.

    • He’s paid the fine (he had to include a check with the second appeal and it’s been cashed).

    • IANAL, but I don’t think they can issue bench warrants for unpaid parking tickets. They can suspend your driver’s license and vehicle registration for sure, but parking tickets aren’t criminal offenses so I don’t think they can arrest you.

  • I love it. The commentariat from this very blog slammed me for saying I didn’t want to have a car in DC because DC employees are so wonderfully incompetent and responsible for stories like this and the many that WTOP broadcasts. And yes, I’ve heard stories of people getting fines and tickets for cars that no longer exist like the OP’s. You gotta hand it to, DC- with this guy’s case, they had to screw up at least three separate times. That takes some incredible coordination- haha! Short of using social media to shame the agency (agencies), many regular people have no recourse but to be bullied into paying these fraudulent or incompetently handled tickets/fines. And let’s face it, a lot of people ARE going to pay that $30 or $45 ticket to just to have it out of their hair. I wonder if these tickets would be as numerous if the ticket writers had to sacrifice two hours pay for each stupid mistake they made.

  • This happened to me, the license plate was mine but the make and model of the car was wrong and it was for a part of town I never went to. I did the double appeal, sans check, which resulted in the doubling of my fine, to which I responded with another letter. A year or so had gone by at this point and I simply just refused to pay the tab. Roughly six months later I got a notice that my fine had been cut in half (imagine my relief!) and I responded that I wasn’t going to pay the ticket, and enclosed my previous correspondence.

    I didn’t do anything else and then I got a parking ticket a few months later, when I logged in to pay it the previous ticket dispute had just vanished. They either gave up and took it off my record or somehow screwed up and got lost in the system. Either way nobody notified.

    DC Government at work.

  • This happened to me last year. I received a ticket in which I was not in that part of town on that day. I tried to dispute it, it was denied. I ended up paying for it because I didn’t want to deal with the screw any longer and didn’t want to risk paying even more for continuing denials. it was BS…but I figured it was Karma, as I have disputed many tickets in the past, to which i was at fault, but my tickets were pardoned those other times. I am still “winning”… 😉

  • Write to TicketBuster (WTOP or WaPo)– they love stories like this—-I think they should post the ‘adjudicators’ educational level. I mean, if you don’t own a car, and still get a ticket. I’d also call your council member- and Mary Cheh- she’s big on this issue.

  • Anyone catch the article about the same issue in Express this morning?

  • Dr Gridlock (WaPo) has an article about this exact thing today- they are seeking out stories just like this one!

  • Well that is amazing. I’d contact my councilmember because someone needs to get chewed out for that.

  • I’d love to see a class action lawsuit against DC DMV for their kangaroo court appeals process (after the first round, if you appeal by letter).

    Back when I had a car, I got a ticket on a Thursday for parking at a “no parking Wednesday, 12 – 2 pm” space. I figured my appeal was pretty cut and dry – I wrote in plain English about what had happened and chalked it up to an honest mistake by the metermaid. I received a letter in all caps stating that the city is not in the habit of posting signs at every single space and that the signs on either end of the block indicated that I should not have been parked there on a Wednesday between 12 and 2 pm. The fact that Thursday is a different day than Wednesday didn’t matter. But the cost of appealing was more than the cost of the ticket, so I ate it.

    • I ran into something similar… I received a parking ticket for parking during street-sweeping hours. I had parked next to a signpost that had three parking-related signs, but no sign indicating any street-sweeping hours. I appealed the ticket and attached a photo of the signpost in question, showing that there was no such sign. My appeal was denied, on the grounds that I should have driven around the block (!!) to see if there were any other signs.
      People in D.C. complain about parking tickets a lot. Usually I don’t think these complaints are justified — most of the time, if you pay attention to the signs, you’re in good shape. And when I’d previously had an erroneous ticket (issued at 8:45 a.m. for a space where metering began at 9 a.m.), I was able to appeal with a photo and get it overturned. But it seems like the DMV is now not only issuing unjust tickets, but also refusing to overturn them when they’re appealed, and that’s not cool.

      • Wow I made just the same appeal and lost. Pictures from the corner to the sign past my car. No restriction posted. But apparently I’m supposed to cruise the length of the block. This wasn’t on R street was it?

        • No, not on R Street.
          I wonder if they’ve had an overall policy shift whereby they now have to deny X percentage of appeals or something — they used to be pretty reasonable.

  • I had something as random…well, perhaps more random, happen to me. Out of the blue, DC garnished $200 from a tax overpayment for a ticket from (wait for it…) 11 years ago for (wait for it…) a car I didn’t own. Seriously.

    Couldn’t get anyone on the phone, didn’t want to go to DMV and waste a day, complained on a listserv out of sheer frustration. Someone connected me with Ari Ashe who is the Ticketbuster from WTOP. Between him and Counciwoman Bowsers office’s assistance I got my money back.

    I wouldn’t hesitate to contact Ari Ashe about your issue. It’s right up his alley. [email protected]

    Cwm Cheh recently held hearings about the DMV’s performance, she shared my story…she should hear yours as well.

    Best of luck, OP! Hang tough!

  • Apparently, processing time for parking administrative appeals can be ridiculously long – like 2-3 years long. So, as long as you haven’t been notified that your appeal was rejected, it’s entirely possible that it just hasn’t been decided yet. (I’m not sure if it will work in your situation, but consider signing up for the Email Ticket Alert Service at

    If you lose your administrative appeal, you can appeal that decision to DC Superior Court. The DMV website explains (

    DC Official Code Section 50-2304.05 provides that you may appeal a decision from the Traffic Adjudication Appeals Board (TAAB) by filing an application for an appeal in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The application for appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the TAAB decision. To obtain the application for appeal, you must appear in person at the office of the Civil Clerk:

    500 Indiana Avenue, N.W.
    Room 5000
    Washington, D.C. 20001

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