What can be done when a Diplomat parks in your reserved spot?

by Prince Of Petworth August 31, 2015 at 1:15 pm 52 Comments

diplomate move
Photo by PoPville flickr user Tyler Nelson

“Dear PoPville,

We live on a busy street in Dupont and had spots reserved legally through the city for our u-Haul. We paid the $55 fee and posted the signs the required 72 hours in advance. The morning of our move, a diplomat parked right in the middle of our spot (DC problems, right?). The city can’t ticket or tow them, so we are screwed trying to find new parking for a box truck in the middle of our very busy neighborhood, having to walk our heavy book cases, mattresses etc all the way down the block. Anyone ever had a similar issues?? Is there anything that can be done?”

  • I thought (perhaps erroneously?) that diplomats CAN be ticketed, and I’m assuming they can be towed too. IIRC, the deal is that they can be ticketed, but D.C., NYC, et al. have no way of making them pay.

    • Harry

      To be more specific: the diplomats are obligated to pay but there is no enforcement mechanism so many don’t. Full diplomatic immunity covers only inherently diplomatic activities – which does include spying but does not include violating traffic rules (unless that was somehow necessary for an inherently diplomatic activity).

      You can go online to look up which country’s car it is. There’s little to be lost in asking (politely) if the car would be moved because it’s causing great inconvenience. If you’re lucky the car will belong to a country that cares about their relationship.

      • RL

        Neither here nor there, as the ticketed/towed issue has already been addressed, but FULL diplomatic immunity definitely *is not* limited to only inherently diplomatic activities. The highest level of diplomatic immunity applies to personal acts too: “Diplomatic agents enjoy the highest degree of privileges and immunities. They enjoy complete personal inviolability, which means that they may not be handcuffed (except in extraordinary circumstances), arrested, or detained; and neither their property (including vehicles) nor residences may be entered or searched.” They also can’t be compelled to testify and are immune from most civil suits.
        Consular-specific personnel and administrative and technical staff have different levels of immunities. For way more details, see the State Department’s guide for law enforcement and the judicial system: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/150546.pdf

  • anon

    Can the city really not ticket or tow them? I know they can’t be criminally charged and could probably ignore any tickets/two charges with few repercussions, but does diplomatic immunity actually extend to illegally parked vehicles? Could they park right in the middle of a busy intersection without being towed too? I doubt it.

    • Ben

      From my understanding they can be towed just not searched or seized – but a whole lot of paperwork has to be done.

  • Anonymous

    Double-park next to the car and block them in.

    • anon2

      +1. This is what you should always do diplomat or no diplomat.

      • But wouldn’t that leave you at risk of getting a ticket for being double-parked?

        • Q

          Oh, for sure. But the sweet, sweet satisfaction would make it so worthwhile.

        • anon2

          Worth a ticket. But not a tow. Anything to get back at the Diplomats.

  • neighbor

    Just double park and box them in. Their problem.

  • Jwetz

    Who told you the city can’t ticket or tow, because they absolutely do.

  • d

    Wow, this would have annoyed the hell out of me. If towing wasn’t an option, not sure what you could do except key the car. Jk, maybe :)

  • Anders14

    I’m one of those diplomats – although the not the one parking in the wrong spot. I was always under the impression that we could be ticketed and/or towed. Good luck!

    • From your name, it sounds like you come from one of those law-abiding Scandinavian countries. ;)

      • FridayGirl

        +1. My thought, too! (In that case, that’s awesome!)

  • 16thster

    You can try to call their Embassy: http://www.pl8s.com/diplo.htm

  • BottleOfRed

    Based on the plates you can tell whether they work for an embassy or consulate and which country (http://www.pl8s.com/diplo.htm). Call them up and let them know. They should be able to notify who is driving the car and tell them to move it

    • andy2

      Why not also take a picture and tweet/facebook the embassy? Nothing like a public shaming to change behavior.

  • anon

    I have diplomatic tags and can assure you that we get ticketed just as easily as anybody else. And if we don’t pay our fines OFM holds back the yearly registration sticker.
    Instead of complaining about a diplomatic car in your reserved spot, please just refer to it as ‘a car’.

    • Erin

      You’re kidding, right? Just because you, a person with diplomatic tags, claims to not pull this kind of inconsiderate behavior, can’t mean you actually think that all people with diplomatic tags act the same way?

      That’s like telling someone “instead of complaining about a taxi doing something crazy, please just refer to it as a red vehicle.”

      You MUST be aware that people with diplomatic tags on their cars park illegally, right?

      • anon

        i think his/her point was that they don’t park illegally in a greater percentage than the general population. i doubt there are stats on this, but i think anecdotal evidence supports this.

        • neighbor

          I would go so far as to say they park illegally at a far lower rate than (a) council members, (b) low numbered DC plates, (c) Maryland drivers.


        • prgkmr

          #Dipolomat cars matter

      • MMMkay

        Whoa there! Anon never said “all people with diplomatic tags act the same way.” S/he just said that diplomats do actually get ticketed, so it’s not really relevant that this was a diplomatic car, since diplomatic cars get ticketed just like any other cars.

    • jen

      instead of telling us how to describe the incident, please just tell your colleagues to knock it off.

      • ajr

        Ha, +1!

    • anoncoward

      “nstead of complaining about a diplomatic car in your reserved spot, please just refer to it as ‘a car’.” If you don’t want to be singled out, don’t use special tags and special parking spots.

      • stately_wayne

        Diplomats do not have a choice which kinds of license plates they get, they are required by law to register their cars with the Federal government. They do not have the proper rights to register cars in DC and get DC tags- they have to get State Department tags because no state will issue them tags. It’s not like a handicap placard…

    • Ava16

      I think everyone is getting upset about this for no reason aside from poor wording (the “please” doesn’t help). I think what they are trying to say is if that you need to complain about diplomat, just call it a “car” and don’t mention the tags and DC gov will probably do something about it. I bet some ill-informed government employee got hung up on the “diplomat” issue and thought that nothing could be done but if the person reporting it just said “a car is blocking our spot” then they would have dispatched parking enforcement.

    • Harry

      Wish that were always the case. Back during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was infamous for owing over $3 million in parking fines. (At $15 per, that’s a lot of tickets.) The problem was so extreme that DC was willing to cause a diplomatic incident to extract revenge: it renamed the block right in front of the Soviet Embassy “Sakharov Plaza.” State was furious, the Soviets were furious, and DC was quite satisfied with the outcome.

      • stately_wayne

        The law was changed in the 1980s, you are correct. Before the law was changed the Soviets didn’t care, afterwards everyone paid parking tickets

  • DC1

    Former diplomat tags holder here…. whoever told the OP that they can’t ticket and tow plain out lied, they can absolutely do both, just make sure MPD tickets the vehicle if you need it towed right away.

    • HaileUnlikely

      They might not have lied; they might have been simply wrong. I don’t lie very often, but I’m often wrong about stuff.

      • FridayGirl

        This is true. Also, they could have been lazy and not wanted to bother to look into it… especially if it takes additional paperwork of some kind. That seems most likely.

        • DC1

          FridayGirl: There is no additional paperwork to ticket/tow a diplomat vehicle, but parking enforcement officers are often misinformed about this, that is why dealing with MPD is so much better/easier.

      • DC1

        haha, fair enough!

  • the dude

    Get ~10 of your buddies and lift the car onto the sidewalk, tightly between a tree and some other unmovable object. Their problem.

    • Sunsquashed

      I’ve actually done this with 5 guys, you just have to move one end of the car at a time (the engine side is obviously the more difficult to lift/move).

      • LittleBluePenguin

        I would pay to watch this, and the ensuing drama the flabbergasted diplomat would inevitably be subjected to in order to move his/her stranded car.

  • Jon M.

    Diplomatic cars can still be towed (see page 27 of this State Dept. guide http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/150546.pdf), because that’s not a [punishment, it’s just ending the violation of a law.

  • LoLeeDC

    This exact thing happened to us! We called parking enforcement who sounded more than willing to come ticket/tow the person but said they had a two-hour window to come. The diplomat moved their car before parking enforcement got there.

    Diplomat in the Volkswagen Passat with plates DTG 1916, you’re a jerk and I hate you.

    • Ekington Chick

      That’s a plate issued to the Canadian embassy.

      • LoLeeDC

        So disappointing! I would’ve expected better law-abiding behavior from a Canadian.

        • Have you heard of Rob Ford?

          • textdoc

            Actual LOL!

  • Aglets

    i miss that building at 4th & I

  • The OP Anon

    Was your move on a Sunday? No way in hell you’ll get a car (1.) ticketed and (2.) towed from a reserved truck spot on a Sunday in any sort of timely manner, if at all. I don’t think DPW tow trucks are even operating.
    If you need a moving truck with a reserved spot, don’t move on a Sunday. There’s pretty much no way to get it enforced.

    • textdoc

      An MPD officer did come out when I found a car parked in my reserved zone on my Sunday moving day. He knocked on some doors, found the owner, and got him to move the car.

  • Tires have these little valve things. If you take the cap off and press the little thing that sticks up, the tire will deflate. Also, Crisco or butter is really difficult to clean off all your windows.

  • Parkguy

    Take a pic of the offending vehicle, and send it to DPW, DDOT, and the State Dept. Every diplomat vehicle has to register with the State Dept and their registration only gets renewed if no pending tickets against the vehicle.


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