From the Forum – DC towed me to metered parking, then charged me for not paying the meter

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DC towed me to metered parking, then charged me for not paying the meter:

“I was wondering if anyone else had had this happen to them or could give me advice. I parked on K St NE in the early afternoon, completely missing that it becomes a rush hour no parking zone after 4:30 (definitely my fault). So I got two $100 tickets, one for the illegal parking, one for the tow to another location. I didn’t find out I had been towed until I went back to get my car at 11 pm that night; I tried to find the location it had been towed to online, but the system was down. So I called the next morning around 9 am, then went to get my car–but it had been towed to a meter, so I had two additional $25 tickets for illegal meter parking starting at 7:15 am that morning. Can DC charge me for illegal parking at a location I didn’t choose? And if I fight the second two tickets, any suggestions on how to frame the situation or substantiate my case? Thanks in advance–it just really irks me to get 4 tickets for one violation.”
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32 Comment

  • This happened to me as well but somewhat different circumstances. I was towed to make room for emergency gas line repairs and they towed me to a metered spot on the nearby main street. When I realized the car wasn’t stolen but towed and picked it up, it had a ticker for an expired meter. This is the only ticket I ever successfully fought, and I’m afraid it was probably just dumb luck. You may fare better if you show proof of paying the fines for your error when appealing which admits the fault that was yours but not the part that was the tow truck. But maybe not. Good luck.

  • This happened to me, although I don’t think the tow was my fault either. I contested the ticket for the tow and the ticket for being at a metered space using the on-line system they have, and DC absolved me of both. Definitely at least worth trying on the metered space ticket.

  • Unfortunately, this is just how third-world state racketeering works. You do have some chance of success at fighting the meter tickets through the written appeals process, but the outcomes there are seem randomized. Don’t ignore the tickets, as they will double and go to collections.

    • ah


      Pay the ones you owe for parking in rush hour zone and the towing fee.

      Then appeal the meter violation, with the explanation you gave above (shorter the better) and tell them you’ve already paid for the towing (include payment receipts). Should take 15 minutes to do, and you have a decent chance of getting someone sympathetic.

      Agree it’s ridiculous, but if you park in a place subject to towing you’re basically running the risk of countless unreasonable charges and inconveniences.

    • The parked where they shouldn’t have. As DupontResident points out below, it could have been worse.

    • On K Street? Where could they possibly have towed you to that would be non-metered?

  • I would chalk it up to bad luck. If they would have towed you to a lot you would have paid a taxi fare (probably, or at least have to find a ride) to the lot and then an impound fee which would have probably been at least the amount you paid for the two extra tickets ($50 total).

    • This is a good point. At least when they tow it to a metered spot, they tend to keep it in the neighborhood.
      That said, they purposely go out of their way to find a metered spot to hit you for that fine.
      I have another interesting anecdote related to my ex-GF’s car. I previously lived across the street from a church. When my ex-GF would visit me, she would usually park her car on a Friday late afternoon and not move it until Sunday night or Monday morning (when she returned back home). At some point over the weekend, the church put up “NO PARKING” signs in order to accommodate an early (7am?) Sunday morning funeral. We found her car towed directly around the corner from my building, but no ticket was issued at all. It was utterly bizarre, considering it is IMPOSSIBLE to call in a tow truck on Sunday morning (they simply are not working, AFAIK).

  • Oldest scam in the DC ticket bonanza playbook. Results are mixed as to how it will play out. My ex-girlfriend was forced to pay all the fines (illegal parking during street sweeping, the tow fee, AND the $25 ticket for parking in a metered spot). Fortunately for her, she found her car only 2 hours after being towed. I did not know you could rack up multiple tickets for not paying the meter (as in your case).

  • Bad luck, but by parking illegally, you give the city the ability to tow you wherever. The tower’s job is to keep the street clear for moving traffic, not waste time towing your car somewhere convenient where you won’t get ticketed for the next 12 hours.

  • The could have towed you to the impound and it would have been a lot worse.

  • Yes. They can and should. Towing costs the city money, as does lost revue by having your car sitting in a metered space. This one is not on the city, its on you for not reading the signs and then ignoring your car for two days!

    • Less than 24 hrs is two day by your calculation….
      That’s some funky math!

    • Does towing cost the city money? I thought the whole point of a city contracting with a private tow company is that they tow for free and pocket the impound fee?

      • There are obvious administrative costs associated with it. I would imagine the entire calculus still has the city coming out ahead though, so the cost is probably not the best argument. I think the argument here is that the city did not tow you to somewhere that at the time they towed you was illegal. It only became illegal roughly 13 hours later. The idea the city cannot two you somewhere where at some point your car might not be parked there legally would likely make towing anywhere impossible.

        It isn’t really the fault of the city you took 15 hours to get your car or that you failed to notice you were parking in a rush hour zone (which is a bit baffling considering that there are signs and it was downtown.

        • I recall being charged for the towing in addition to the citation cost, though it has been a while.

  • Tsar of Truxton

    This recently happened to me on M Street NE at 1st (the ticket and tow, not the meter issue). I was in the wrong for parking in the rush hour zone and will pay the tickets, but it seems to me that they should list that it is a rush hour zone on the meter. I was in a rush, got out, checked the meter, which said it was enforceable from 9:30-4:30 (or whatever), so I ran my quick errand and came back to a missing car. I don’t really get my M Street is rush hour parking since it is a one way street that turns into a two way street at that intersection and there is no traffic, but that is besides the point. I do think the meters should list the no parking times, however, because your normal first instinct is to read the meter and not go searching down the block for parking signs (when there is no meter, obv, you go looking for signs). Am I crazy for thinking this would be a nice courtesy? I think they don’t it because it is a money-maker. In the 10 minutes I was gone, I was ticketed and towed as was at least one other person…so they are clearly waiting for people to do it.

    • I agree to some extent, but a meter stopping at 430 is a signal that you’re in a rush hour zone. This is the only reason it stops before 630.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        Safe to say, I rarely park at meters, so I guess I didn’t know the clues. In the future, I will know. A $200 lesson learned! But not everyone (like me and especially out-of-towners) would know the normal meter end times, which is why saying no parking during rush hour would be helpful. It was a dumb mistake I made because I was in a rush (my first parking ticket ever), but I just think it would be nice of them to say it.

    • Maybe you are new to D.C., but if I saw a meter that said enforcement ran until 4:30 p.m., I would immediately be suspicious and start looking for signage about rush-hour parking.
      My recollection is that most meters in D.C. used to be in effect until 6:30 (or maybe 7?) p.m., except for the ones in rush-hour parking zones, which were in effect until rush-hour parking restrictions began. Now many (most?) meters are in effect until 10 p.m.

  • I’ve had my car towed a couple of times for street cleaning violations. One time, the online system said that there was no record of the car being towed so I freaked out thinking my car was stolen for about 10 minutes before I realized I should just call DPW. They were able to tell me where it was and the phone call took about 2 mins (I think you can also call 311 during DPW off hours). So for future reference, you can call (202) 541-6083 and they should be able to pull up your info immediately.

    • The location of my ex’s car was incorrectly recorded by DPW and she had to report it stolen. They found it about a week later.

  • Look at it this way – 2 tickets for not paying a parking meter will cost you a LOT less than getting your car out of an impound lot, had your car actually been towed away. That would have cost you several hundred dollars. The same thing happened to a handy man who was doing some work on my house last year, though it took him a lot longer to figure out that his car was right around the corner. (in a non-meter spot that time.)

  • Wait, while everyone has pointed out that this is solely on you. I find it interesting that you parked during the “early afternoon” and did not return to your car until “11 PM that night”. How did you expect to pull this off without something happening? In case you didn’t know, you can’t just feeding the meter from your phone or other methods and keep it in the same zone let alone the same park. You can try all you want on this one but sounds to me like you should chalk this up to a learning experience and keep it moving.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      My guess is that s/he did what I described above. Checked meter and saw you did not need to pay after 4:30 and did not check the sign to see that it was a rush hour zone from 4:30-6:30. In that situation, there would be no meter feeding because the meter ends at 4:30.

      • I see. Rookie/naive mistake, no way in the world a meter on K st. NE becomes suddenly free after 4:30.

    • There are several spots around town where you can park all day; no meter, no zone parking. With that said, I’m not familiar with this particular area.

  • Chalk it up to experience and count your blessings, namely, that you knew where you car had been towed/found it and that it was not to some chain linked compound yard in suburban Md.!

    • I mean “impound” yard :^) Whoops! That happened to me once. Had to go fetch my car in MD, passing a snarly mean old German shepherd at the gate.

  • I watched this happen here in SW. DC ticketed and towed a car parked in front of their own house for the weekly street sweeping (waste of money itself) and moved it to a metered spot. I’m not sure what happened at that point, DC either didn’t report it or reported the location wrong, or the owners were out of town because it sat in a metered spot and just collected ticket after ticket, even though the original tow paperwork was on the windshield. It had at least 8-10 additional tickets on it before it disappeared, it might actually just have been towed to the impound lot and auctioned off, it’s not like THAT hasn’t happened before.
    To all those people saying she deserved the tickets because it was costing DC meter fees, here in SW DCFD trucks and cars park at the metered spots (or just blatantly illegally) for DAYS and they NEVER receive tickets. This parking is even worse because they have underground parking beneath the DCRA building, they are just too lazy to park there.

  • I had this happen to me. Similar situation, first ticket/tow was my fault, but got 2 additional meter tickets. I contested them all together as I always contest tickets to make em work a little for it. Since the first ticket was my fault the whole thing got overturned. I would contest each ticket separately, which had I thought it through I would have done.

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