“I wanted to share my frustrations regarding this city’s amateurish and broken parking ticket adjudication process”

by Prince Of Petworth August 31, 2016 at 2:05 pm 36 Comments

pain sculpture

“Dear PoPville,

I wanted to share my frustrations regarding this city’s amateurish and broken parking ticket adjudication process, and also seek help from the community in resolving my problem. In particular, I want to highlight the lack of responsiveness by the “Ticket Adjudication Ombudsman,” the office ostensibly tasked with helping people who have already been ignored or frustrated by normal DMV channels.

To make a long story short, I successfully appealed a parking ticket I received in April 2015. I was ticketed and towed for parking in an “Emergency No Parking” zone, but had photographic evidence that the “No Parking” sign had not been put up 72 hours in advance, as required by law (in fact, the photographic evidence I was relying on was the very photo taken by the traffic enforcement officer, but that’s another story.)

I challenged the ticket twice to a hearing examiner, who summarily denied my motions without even acknowledging or addressing my defense. I then paid the ticket ($150) and filed a formal appeal, noting in my “brief” that the hearing examiner had ignored my defenses and photographic evidence. The appellate board sided with me and reversed the ticket; in the opinion, they specifically cited the fact that the hearing examiner had failed to even address my defenses and justify his/her decision, as required by law. The opinion said I should allow “8-10 weeks for a refund” of my ticket

Well, that was in early May, sixteen weeks ago. Two weeks ago, after still not receiving my refund, I wrote to the “Ticket Adjudication Ombudsman,” the outfit tasked with helping customers navigating the adjudication process and resolving customer complaints. Guess what? Even the Ombudsman hasn’t responded to me or even acknowledged my complaint.

How have others in my situation (there have to be others) dealt with this problem? Why is this city incapable of providing basic customer service to its residents?”

Side note: The following press release was issued by the DMV yesterday:

Due to a power outage in its vendor’s New York office, the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DC DMV) ticket payment system is currently not in operation.

At this time, DC DMV is unable to process ticket payments, research tickets, or access tickets. The agency is unable at this time to adjudicate any tickets that have been submitted by mail or online.

However, previously scheduled hearings will be conducted and walk-in hearings, for which the customer has a hard copy of the ticket(s) and evidence, will be conducted, and the hearing decision will be entered into the system upon restoration of service.

Additionally, the deadline for ticket payments and the deadline for customers to contest tickets will be extended to cover only one day following the outage period. DC DMV will also cancel any vehicle storage fees accrued during the outage.

Currently, DC DMV does not have an estimated time when the system will be returned to service. Please visit www.dmv.dc.gov, @dcdmv, or call 311 for ongoing updates about the service outage.

We apologize for the inconvenience as we continue to work with our vendor to restore service.

  • stacksp

    In general, I have not paid tickets until AFTER the hearing with the examiner as they are often reduced or even waived if you have sufficient evidence. I personally do not know of an instance where a refund was granted for a ticket that was already paid.

    • OP

      I’m the OP. You’re correct, during my initial challenge and motion for reconsideration before the hearing examiner (which I made online), I didn’t have to pay the $150. However, if you’re going to appeal a hearing examiner’s decision, they make you pay the ticket plus an appeals fee, which is refunded to you if you prevail.

      • stacksp

        Ahhh… Got it….

  • Tom

    What is even worse, is that in the past two years, I received 2 parking tickets that I appealed online and received confirmation that they were submitted and in review. Never heard anything back for months until I received two separate collection notices letting me know that the tickets had to be paid. How’s that fair when I never heard a thing back from the DMV on the tickets I submitted for appeal? And then to receive a collections, which probably hurts my credit?

    • God Bless the Chickpea

      This happened to me! I assumed that the appeals process was just a ruse to get more $$ from fees for late ticket payments.

      • gregbro

        I have contested many parking tickets online and in person when you do it online you never get a real response it either disappears or you get a collection notice in person for me has been smooth its just time consuming

        • TX2DC

          +1 Never, never appeal online. I tried it once. Nothing happened except my fine doubling after 30 days for non-payment. You must go in person if you’re going to appeal.

          • TJ

            This advice would cause a lot of people to waste a lot of time going in person to do an appeal.

            I have successfully appealed numerous tickets online since the city made it possible to do so without ever running into a problem. You should get a message confirming an appeal has been submitted and the that the ticket has been placed on hold.

            It take a long time – sometimes nearly 2 years – but all online appeals have been resolved, mostly in my favor.

          • saf

            What TJ said.

        • ah

          I appealed online and received an email confirming an appeal had been submitted.

          If I search for the ticket online it shows that an appeal has been submitted.

          (By “appeal” I mean the initial one).

    • A in Columbia Heights

      Happened to me as well. Was only a $20 ticket, so I gave up and paid, but man, still really grinds my gears.

  • Anon

    First of all, I feel you. I’ve been there. I have no advice on how to proceed because as you’ve mentioned, it’s a fucked up system full of circular logic. It’s never a matter of who’s actually right. I was able to get out of my two, but they were completely unrelated and I had to prepare and argue them like it was a damn murder trial. Even then they were lifted very begrudgingly. That said, I’m curious as to how the photo proved the sign wasn’t there? Was the sign not in the photo they sent? Also how do other people fight something like that other than preemptively taking time stamped photos? I don’t drive much, so I tend to just avoid the signs even when I know they’re not technically enforceable so I don’t have to deal with the hassle

    • OP

      I lucked out. The “Emergency No Parking” signs have a “date posted” or “date created” field, and the one used against me said it was created 24 hours before it was posted.

      • OP

        Sorry, I meant 24 hours before I was towed.

        • Anon

          Ohhhh. Good to know. Thanks and good luck

  • Q

    The company managing DC DMV services is 1) in New York and 2) had a power outage so severe that it will affect DC services for long enough to justify the need for a press release, but not severe enough for it to be in the news? Kay.

    • Anonymous

      Seriously. It sounds like some hacked and deleted the entire database. That statement is not reassuring from a cyber-security standpoint.

  • Charlie

    This happened to me, too. I also did not receive my notice until 10 months after the original appeal. I also had 30 days to pay the ticket after the date printed on the notice, which was listed as 30 days ago. So it doubled and I had a boot put on my car the second the 60 days hit. The tickets I received were for failure to display current registration — which were temporary tags that had expired because DC mailed them to an address that isn’t even listed on my license anymore. I had confirmation in my appeal from a 311 representative who said she noticed the incorrect mailing address once I called in to track them. I’ve really lost any hope in an actual parking resolution so I paid them all before my car actually got towed.

  • anon

    I similarly contested an emergency no parking tow where there were no signs, paid the ticket as you did and awaited my appeal. Mine was also overturned, and I believe it took almost a year to get my $130 back (or whatever the amount was, I don’t really remember). Hope you get yours sooner than I did.

  • smk

    Ugh, OP that is so frustrating. In March I got a ticket for parking at an expired meter ignoring the fact that the ticket was issued at 9:09 pm while the meter clearly indicated enforcement ended at 6:30 pm. I filed a challenge and submitted a photo of the meter with the enforcement instructions clearly visible, but the hearing examiner denied my challenge because the photographic evidence did not show the location of the photo in relation to the location of the infraction. This when the meter number was clearly visible on the photo and matched the meter number on the ticket, and no two meters in DC have the same number so there could be no doubt as to the location of the meter in my photo. I submitted a motion for reconsideration and am now waiting. I already got and paid a $150 camera-issued ticket for turning left on a red light without the green arrow when the arrow signal was obscured by a burlap bag! I remember reading a couple of years ago how much money DC generates from traffic and parking tickets (something like $90 million that year), and it’s clear that at least some of this is generated through defrauding DC taxpayers and visitors and the city doesn’t give a damn.

    • anon

      This story makes me wonder if the hearing examiner didn’t have a brain sufficient to comprehend the concept of unique meter numbers, or whether they were just mean, or whether they have a quota of how many invalid tickets they are allowed to dismiss.

  • Marty

    I just paid $200 for a parking ticket that I never received (honestly). It then doubled while I was blissfully on vacation. Easier to just pay than to fight, at least for me.

    • Anon Spock

      I’ve found it easy to admit fault but say you never received it to get the doubled amount reduced. They know they’re getting some money, so they’re less likely to give you a hard time in my experience.

  • TinkerTaylor

    In response to OP’s final, likely rhetorical, question let us turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 21, verse 25: “if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books . . . .”

    Parochial education at work, right there.

  • Shaw

    If you paid with a credit card, call your card issuer and ask them to reverse the charge. If you can provide them with the documentation showing that the payment was invalidated, they should be able to help you.

    • OP

      Are you speaking from experience? Do you know someone who has actually pulled that off?

  • Admo_Anon

    I’ve had pretty good luck contesting tickets, but I was ticketed for this exact reason in June. I parked my car on a Friday night at 6PM (no signs posted) and woke up the next morning to a ticket and the signs. However, the signs print date were the day of. I contested, and figured it would be overturned because the evidence is very obvious it wasn’t posted with 72 hours notice. I just got the doubled ticket back, saying I did not submit any evidence. I have re-contested, and will take to hearing if I have to. However, seems like this part of their adjudication is not following their own rules, which I noted when I contested. Super, super annoying. In my opinion, the parking permit office shouldn’t really print the official signs if the person picking them up is grabbing them with less than 72 hours notice, but that’s asking too much, I know.

    • JT

      From my experience, the person who has paid to reserve the spot on the street has to go to a specific location (we had to go to the local police station) to print off the ‘no parking’ signs. So it would fall to the person/group/company that reserved the spots to print them out well in advance and display them at least 72 hours in advance.

    • ah

      They can print them out, and hopefully people won’t park there after they post them. But anyone who does has a defense.

    • Anon

      I do have a story of the rare occasion that there’s more to a story. A few years back, I reserved a moving truck for a Friday morning move just off U St NW. Dutifully paid for the signs, printed them at the police station, and posted them a few hours before the 72 hours notice, doing the best I could to re-enforce them. Took a picture, etc. Thursday evening, all was well, and the space was already clear of parked cars. But Friday by 7am, as I’m getting ready for the movers to arrive, I notice either some drunkards (or some very determined parkers) overnight had torn down all my signs and ripped them to shreds all down the block. Cars parked now without notice. Leaving me to run blocks to the police station to re-print (now with that day’s date), re-post etc, and try to clear space frantically, when I already had a number of pre-move tasks to do. The movers arrived, had to double-park, and probably annoyed drivers a whole lot more, while I was out the permit fees.

  • DcisJ

    You think this is bad? I dissolved a DC corporation and received an office letter certifying as much. Moved out of state. Ended up getting tax bills for corporate taxes of the no-longer-in-existence corporation.

  • beau

    This crap will continue until there is a large enough class action to cause some accountability.

    • city

      a class action about this won’t change anything. a lawsuit against the city is a lawsuit against ourselves; the city only has money because we pay taxes, and the administrators of the system don’t suffer in any way if they lose a lawsuit. so, not a good idea.

  • It took me 2.5 years from the time of receiving an invalid ticket (I don’t even own a car) to make it through the multiple levels of appeals, including the examiner appeal and mailing my check in, to finally receive my refund back for the ticket. I was only able to get some actual traction by contacting my ANC rep along with several high up DC gov’t folks.

    • anon

      That is so unacceptable. ANC reps and Councilmembers should be involved in legislation (like, say, reforming the bureaucracy!) instead of intervening in individual disputes. The system is so broken.

  • ClevelandDave

    + 1 I feel your pain. Broken system. Can’t correct itself and needs outside interference. Paid one ticket a few days before the 30 days, but they sent me a notice doubling the fine. Why not wait a couple of days (30 +5?) before issuing doubling notices- could be the mail, or it could be your screwed up payment/credit system. 30 days is 30 days.

    Second incident parked in Foggy Bottom in a legal space. Took a dated picture after I got the ticket showing the sign and where I was parked. Some point soon after they changed the signs. Took a picture. Presented it as evidence. They said the sign shop showed no such change. WTF? They make this stuff up because you’d have to make it up to get away with this crap.

    This is why people hate government, DC’s in particular. It is all over: tax office, schools central office, road maintenance, rodent abatement, park maintenance, traffic enforcement/adjudication. I’m sure there are many good people working in these places, but the incompetent ones and the lazy ones just give everyone a bad rep.


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