“Do I have a realistic shot at fighting either the parking citation and/or tow fee?”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

“Dear PoPville,

A couple weeks ago, I parked my car in an ambiguously marked tow away rush hour lane. Sure enough, when I got back the car was gone and towed off by the city.

Yes, I made a mistake parking it there, but the District definitely made a pretty bad mistake towing my AWD car at least half a mile by its front wheels without a rear dolly or flatbedding my car – totally against standard practice for towing an AWD vehicle. Long story short, $4k+ in damages to the differential and driveshaft; fortunately, my insurer is stepping in and hopefully will pursue a claim against DC’s towing service that will cover the insurer’s costs and my deductible.

I’m not writing so much about the damages, which I am upset about – fortunately they’re a sliver short of totaling the car.

The real reason I’m writing is that I think I may have a technicality that gets me around the $200 in parking fines and/or towing fees and want your advice.

The towing crane form from the DPW Towing and Impoundment Branch shows the tow truck arrived on scene at 9:00 AM, towed the vehicle at 9:05, and got it to its destination over half a mile away at 9:10. (Fortunately, it also documents explicitly that it was towed w/o a dolly on the rear wheels, which should solidify my insurer’s claim; also, for the readers, my car clearly says ‘ALL WHEEL DRIVE’ on its tailgate.) The issue is that the notice of infraction slip shows the time of the $100 parking violation as 9:10 AM and issues the additional $100 tow fee at 9:12 AM. (Note the tow form is filled by hand while the notice of infraction is an electronically printed ticket.)

My thought here is that if procedure is being followed, the citation should happen first and then the tow can occur. As such, the tow form should show a tow time that is after the time of the citation. Clearly, this is not the case as the time of citation is 9:10 after the time of the tow at 9:05.

Do any of you have advice on this? Do I have a realistic shot at fighting either the parking citation and/or tow fee?”

31 Comment

  • If you were parked in the rush hour lane I’m not sure why you expect to get out of the ticket. Whatever loophole you think you’ve found because of the 5 minute difference on the tow and ticket times I can assure you that you have not.
    .
    The damage to the car sucks, but as you said your insurer will fight that for you.

  • Please just be happy that you’re unlikely to eat that $4k in damages yourself and just cheerfully pay the ticket you’ve already admitted you deserve.

  • Do we expect, nay- *DEMAND* that the towing company and the police synchronize their clocks to atomic accuracy?

  • SilverSpringGal

    Are you serious? The tow was within the city’s legal parameters but you want the fee thrown out because they wrote the ticket once the car was already parked in their tow lot?? You did wrong, just pay the fee.

    • As someone who has often secured parking permits for moving… I know all too well that the city won’t tow a car until it has been ticketed. You have to call to get it ticketed…wait…ticket! Then call to get them towed…wait…and there goes all of the time you’ve reserved. In short – the city doesn’t get to choose when they do and don’t follow their own rules.

      • Doesn’t DCPS operate it’s owning towing fleet for such contingencies? That may not apply if the tow truck is DCPS operated with the operator authorized to issue the ticket.

        • DCPS is DC Public Schools. They do have one tow truck (and one old tow truck from the 70’s sitting out of service), but don’t tow illegally parked cars. Just broken down buses.

          –someone familiar with city fleet

        • I don’t know who operates the trucks, but yes, there’s definitely a difference between the city towing a car from rush-hour or street-cleaning lanes versus someone’s moving-truck spot. The city cares (to an extent) about keeping rush-hour/street-cleaning lanes clear and has trucks at the ready to clear those lanes. The city doesn’t really care about keeping your moving-truck spot clear – at least, it’s not a priority.

  • Huh? 4K worth of damage to your car because you admittedly parked in a rush hour lane, and you are trying to parse your way out of a $200 ticket? Is the mental damage really worth it?

    Cars left in rush hour lanes for even a few minutes can spawn a 30 minute traffic snarl, or back traffic up for many, many blocks. It is why DPW has a fleet of trucks out moving them twice a day.

    You admit you were parked illegally, and deserved a tow. The fact that the driver was more concerned about clearing the ROW as fast as possible rather than spending the extra time blocking lanes of traffic to put your ticket on your windshield means absolutely nothing. It is still a legit ticket.

    Lastly, I am pretty sure DPW carries no responsibility for the kind of tow damage you have. Maybe there was another car parked in the back of your car and they couldn’t get your car up on the rig that way. Maybe they didn’t have a flatbed handy, or it couldn’t access your car either. Their concern is clearing the ROW as quickly as possible, not waiting 30 minutes for another truck to come while your car continues to snarly rush hour traffic.

    • Accountering

      Yeah, you are wrong. They have the right to move your car, not to damage it. They are absolutely 100% responsible for the damage. If this did go to court, they would certainly have to refund the tow service as well, as they did not provide that service. The ticket would likely stand.

  • I think it is totally fair to expect them to follow rules (just as you should). Worth trying? Maybe, unless it’s going to cost you. More likely than not, the margin of error with clocks is pretty thin and probably not worth the effort.

  • It’s possible that the tow truck’s time is simply wrong. 9 AM may be an approximation. I don’t think you’ll win this one, but hey, my advise is to ALWAYS submit some kind of explanation, and there’s a decent chance you’ll get the fine reduced or struck completely — especially if it’s your first ticket. Good luck!

  • counter point — city could argue that by blocking a lane marked for rush hour and impeding traffic the tow required immediate action rather than completing the ticketing process first. By your analogy, if there had been a fender bender that blocked the road, should the officer on the scene determine liability on site and issue tickets where necessary before towing cars to safety?

    Doesn’t excuse errant towing procedure. Your insurer should recoup on that front, although it won’t help you directly.-

    • I just pictured a car parked in front of a hydrant, and a building on fire…
      “Let me just tow this out of the way so they can get to the hyd- oh wait, gotta ticket it first. Let’s see, it’s a light blue BMW… or is that silver?”

  • I’ve gotten out of tickets before because the ticketer put down the wrong block. The ticket said I was parked on the 700 block, when in fact I was just across the intersection and in the 800 block. So I’d guess you at least have a shot with the times not being in sync.

  • Chuckling at the URL the Prince chose for this one.

  • DC1

    Rule of thumb, never admit wrongdoing when trying to get out of a ticket.

    As for the damage, let your insurer deal with the office of risk management.

    • seconded. “rush hour sign was not easily visible from pay parking location” is a reasonable argument, and one that has worked for friends.

  • When you parked there, did you know it was illegal?

  • “I parked my car in an ambiguously marked tow away rush hour lane” — I’m just curious… how was it marked? (What about the signage was ambiguous?)

    • There was a kiosk for buying a parking ticket which had a sign indicating a two hour limit. It indicated parking was OK from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There was overlapping signage at the end of the block that I did not see originally indicating a rush hour tow away zone time and it overlapped with the ok parking time at the kiosk.

      • You should argue the ticket based on the ambiguous signage. I think you have a better case there. AND you could encourage them to clarify the signage so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Sorry about your car!

      • I posted an additional comment, but if you can get a picture of the signage that states 2 hour until 5, and then the relative location of the rush hour tow sign you can use that to fight the initial ticket. It needs to be a reasonable distance from the pay kiosk sign. The pictures that are automatically taken when you’re issued a ticket will help here if they don’t clearly show the “no rush hour parking” sign.

  • Whether they towed first and cited later would not matter- the question is, was your car legally parked there t 9 am? If not, its basic paperwork, but does not change the underlying offense. Now if they had towed or cited you at a time it was still legit to keep your car there (that happened to me once years ago in nyc), that’s a different story. You might have a better chance fighting the ticket, if you highlight how the parking signs there were ambiguous or misleading.

    But I am not surprised at all by the horrible towing practice. I remember seeing a towing truck towing a car through a narrow alley in shaw, where the car’s side was getting scraped by poles along the alley! I am glad you were able to get that damage covered and that towing company put on the hot seat.

  • You always have a chance to win if you fight the ticket. Especially if there is a mistake (whatever that mistake may be ) on the ticket.

    I fought a parking ticket that I deserved (mostly because I’ve had tickets given to me when I’m 9’8″ from a stop sign, legal distance is 10’…yes, I measured AND when I was legally parked in my garage of my apartment building, so I’m not going to make it easy on the city) because they listed my license plate as MD when I have DC plates.

    That means they issued a ticket to a car that I do not own, which means I’m not obligated to pay.

    Uploading pictures of the ticket and stating “according to paperwork, car was towed before being ticketed, and didn’t give me a chance to come get the car before tow occurred.” I don’t know if there’s a legal difference here or not, but something to look into. DC supposedly has a system that emails you when your car receives a ticket so that you can remove the car before further ticketing occurs, but I’ve never seen it work.

    Also, I don’t know why people are like “you have 4k in damage, why are you worrying about $200?”… it’s money. If it’s easy to fight the ticket online and NOT pay $200 I don’t see the issue.

    Sorry about the tow for your car, glad the insurance company is paying!

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