Disputing DPW Ticket – Hearing Scheduled, what do I do?

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Topic: Disputing DPW Ticket – Hearing Scheduled, what do I do?

Governement and Politics January 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Disputing DPW Ticket – Hearing Scheduled, what do I do?

On May 2, 2011 we were cited with “Illegal deposits in public space”. The fine was for $75.
Attached to the citation was a photograph — of a property that was clearly not mine. Further, it was not any other home in our alley.
I attempted to contact DPW without success, and eventually sent in a dispute within the specified 14 day period. I attached a photograph of our home (it referred to the rear of the home) as part of the dispute.
Fast forward to late December. We received a notice from the city stating that a hearing is scheduled for January 11, 2012. I guess this post is mostly about frustration, but perhaps someone can give me insight on how it should be handled. I don’t want to let this slide, but taking an afternoon off from work is worth more than $75 for me. On the other hand, I think this is what they are hoping I will decide. In addition, if I don’t appear the fine will double. There is also a lot of legal-speak in the notice regarding submitting evidence and witnesses. I don’t feel I am qualified for such a task, but I am certainly not going to hire a lawyer for a $75 fine. Is a letter and photographic evidence not sufficient for DPW? Am I going to need more evidence for the hearing than a photograph of the rear of my home?
Of particular concern to me is this piece in the letter: “The witness list, copies of documents, photographs, or other items or papers that you file must contain a certificate of service stating that you sent them to the party’s representative(s), whose address(es) are found on page 6.” What do I need to do to obtain such a certificate? I want to be sure that both the original citation photograph and my photograph are entered into evidence.
Lastly, the notice says, “NOTE: A copy of any statement, document, photograph or other exhibit filed by the Respondent with the plea of Deny is attached to this Order.” However, the original photograph is conveniently missing from the attached documentation.
Any help, comiseration, or bashing is welcome. Thanks for reading my rant!

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I’m not an expert by *any means but I can empathsize as to how ridiculous this is, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. For what it’s worth and if I were in your shoes, my thoughts (with the great caveat that again, I’m no expert 🙂 ):

1. Go to the hearing. You absolutely want a paper trail of this incident in the event it comes back to haunt you later. The chances are slim that it would, but it’s not worth taking the risk of it going down in history as something for which you’re at fault. If DPW is sloppy enough to make this mistake once then they’re sloppy enough to do it again. You don’t want a ‘record’ of admitting your guilty when you’re clearly not. On a related note, keep a record of what happens for your own recordkeeping purposes.

2. In regards to the witnesses and evidence: witnesses and evidence to what? You didn’t do anything wrong. The best you could possibly do is submit the picture(s), and letter(s) from willing and reliable neighbors or friends who can attest that the original photo is not your property. I would think that’s the best you could do for now. If they want something more specific then they’ll need to request it from you; assuming your inquiry above is comprehensive of what happened then realistically you don’t even have anything else to submit to them (until they specifically request it from you).

3. I wouldn’t get too caught up with the legalese regarding the certificate. I don’t know if it provides more information about that on the notice but it sounds like a standard line that is probably put in every notice that is issued, regardless of the reason for the notice.

4. The last ‘NOTE’ that you mention? Classic! They’re not even in compliance with their own legalese! ha! There’s some evidence for you right there… they don’t provide you with their own evidence as to why you’re supposedly at fault.

Again, sorry you have to deal with this. Maybe if you don’t get many responses in the forum then you can ask PoP to post it on the main site (if he thinks it’s appropriate). It sounds like something that would get a lot of responses from PoPville. Best of luck to you! A non-expert empathsizer, HorseShoe

A certificate of service is just a piece of paper you add to the package of documents you send that says the following (with your signature).  Just go to the hearing and give them your side of the story.  Say it was a mistake and let the hearing officer know the address of the property where the dumped trash really is behind. 
“Lastly, the notice says, “NOTE: A copy of any statement, document, photograph or other exhibit filed by the Respondent with the plea of Deny is attached to this Order.” However, the original photograph is conveniently missing from the attached documentation.”
Although I havent’ read the notice in whole, I believe this is just a form notice.  I presume YOU would be the respondent, and the DPW would attach anything that you sent in (docs, photos, etc) to the order and send it to any other parties.  I wouldn’t worry about it.

Good luck.  ~~A DC lawyer.  (Disclaimer, this is not to be used as legal advice, and is merely for informative or personal comment purposes.  I have not been retained, nor do I purport to act on behalf of any of the relvant parties herein).
            The undersigned certifies that a true and correct copy of the foregoing (list the items you are sending) was sent, via regular U.S. Mail, postage prepaid, (or whatever way you sent the items, fedex, e-mail, fax, etc), to the below address on _____(date)_____ at:
(Address listed on pg 6 of your notice)
Your name


Is this hearing the Office of Administrative Hearings?  If so, I have experience with that process, and it’s not as lawyerly as the notice sounds.  What happened when I got tagged with a violation (a “Notice of Violation”) was that a hearing was scheduled (I actually appealed DPW’s issuance because they didn’t respond) in OAH.
The hearing was relatively informal.  The “judge” didn’t require people to stand, and basically asked what the issue was.  I explained.  I brought photos but never needed to show them.  In your case, I would bring your photos and the violation, to explain it’s the wrong house.  My hearing lasted all of 15-20 minutes, because more explanation was needed than it sounds like you have.
In my case, the city’s “lawyer”, who I think wasn’t a lawyer but rather a paralegal-type person with knowledge of how the system worked, basically acknowledged that the violation was not a violation.  The judge wanted the case to go away and was happy to hear the DC lawyer say that it would go away.
Keep in mind the burden of proof is on the city.  As a technical matter they may already have failed.  Perhaps you can call the office that issued the notice and point out that they haven’t even attached any evidence, and get out of the hearing.
I don’t know what to tell you about the $75–that’s a tough call.  Perhaps you can schedule it to minimize missed work.  In my case, the fine was $500 so definitely worth it.  My inclination would still be to fight it.

Thanks for all the advice. I definitely plan to attend the hearing, I’m just frustrated at a poorly run beuracracy that wastes my time, the judge’s time and DPW’s time when this should have been easily handled without having a hearing.

the site just ate my answer!  briefly, there is a resource center at OAH that can give information (don’t know if they’ll do it over the phone, but if you can get there early on your hearing date and talk with them it might put your mind at ease).  I’ve represented people there (never in DPW cases, and no one should take this as legal advice) and found the judges to be reasonable and very used to self-represented folks…I’ve also found that the folks who handle cases for the agency are often smarter and more reasonable than the employees you might have dealt with before that.  Best of luck to you…what a pain to have to deal with it. 

I forgot to post an update, but here it is:
I went to the hearing. The investigator did not show up. The case was dismissed with prejudice.
A little disappointing, but a good outcome nonetheless. I was looking forward to showing them they were wrong. 🙂

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