Here’s an update from my ongoing battle with the DMV bureaucracy. There are some real issues here having to do with good government, transparency and due process.”
Dear Councilmember Allen,
Thank you again for your attention to my ongoing issue with the DMV. I hope you and your colleagues will continue to pursue a legislative fix to end the DMV’s abuse of its authority. It’s unconscionable that individuals have no recourse, due to the DMV’s lack of transparency and due process, to challenge the validity of alleged outstanding, decade-old parking tickets. I wanted to let you know the latest on my situation to inform your efforts to provide better oversight and improve the DMV’s processes going forward.
After DMV Director Babers was unhelpful in response to your outreach on my behalf, I pursued the only other avenue I had left. I followed up with my bank again to further pursue the possibility of accessing my old records in hopes of finding the proof of my payment to the DMV for the parking tickets 10 years ago. The bank again informed me that they do not keep such records beyond 7 years. I was told by the branch manager at my bank that 7 years is the industry standard for preserving such records, as prescribed by government regulation. Thus, there is absolutely no way for me, or others caught in this DMV catch-22 trap, to provide proof of payment to the DMV without locating my original receipt.
As I’ve previously discussed with you and your staff, it is onerous and unreasonable to expect someone to be able to provide a receipt from 10 years ago. It’s even more unreasonable in a circumstance such as mine, where I had every reason to believe that the matter of the old parking tickets was resolved for good, given my initial registration of the vehicle the tickets were issued to (the Ford Ranger) when I moved from Virginia to DC, followed by repeated successful vehicle registrations over the past 10 years.
Again, I find Director Babers’ explanation that the DMV had no way of knowing that there were outstanding tickets on my vehicle when I registered it in the District to be disingenuous. Since I had to provide my VA license, former address, and vehicle information to DC DMV at the time of registration, the tickets on my Ford Ranger were identified and paid at the time of initial registration of the vehicle. Assertions by the Director that the only way the DMV agents would have been able to identify outstanding tickets on my vehicle was if I volunteered the information contradicts the experience of anyone who has registered a vehicle and owed back tickets, impugns the competence of frontline DMV employees, and does not pass the straight-face test.
TEN YEARS. I think it’s important to put this in perspective. In the intervening 10 years, I have moved multiple times and successfully registered two different vehicles in DC. Yet after all these years, I’m suddenly being presumed guilty of owing this debt, without any means of recourse. For crying out loud, people commit criminal felonies in DC for which the statute of limitations is less than 10 years. The IRS doesn’t even require people to keep their tax records for 10 years. As you noted, there is no adjudication process with the DMV after 60 days have passed. Furthermore, I’m not seeking to adjudicate the validity of the original tickets at this point. My issue is that I already paid the tickets. Yet, I’m now suddenly being required to prove my innocence of this alleged debt by providing a 10-year-old receipt. This is an example of inept, oppressive government bureaucracy at its worst. It’s Kafkaesque.
I have recently done some additional research and learned that I’m not alone in suffering from the DMV’s lack of data integrity. Below are links to news articles from 2 to 3 years ago. The articles provide numerous examples of people who were confronted out of the blue by the DMV with alleged years-old unpaid tickets. In one case a woman was forced to pay a ticket of which she had no recollection that was thirty years old! In some cases, the tickets were clearly issued erroneously to begin with. In other cases, the tickets were so old that the individuals had no way of knowing if the tickets had any validity, nor did they have any means of proving that they’d already paid for them. This sounds disturbingly familiar. And Director Babers was apparently as unwilling then to acknowledge and accept responsibility for her agency’s problems as she is now.
As indicated by these articles, apparently both the DC Council and the DC Inspector General have been aware of ongoing problems with the DMV regarding its lack of data integrity, lack of transparency, heavy-handedness, minimal due process, and a priority of revenue production over accuracy. A revealing quote which was included in a 2014 Inspector General’s report (“Parking and Automated Traffic Enforcement Tickets–Part 1: Ticket Issuance Practices”) and attributed to a senior District official said, “One of the beauties of parking, it’s like the [Internal Revenue Service]. If you get a parking ticket, you are guilty until you have proven yourself innocent … That has worked well for us.”
I truly hope that you and your colleagues will pursue ways to protect your constituents from the DMV’s continued abuse of its authority. For example: (1) Clearly the DMV, or an independent body, needs to be required to provide an appeals process for tickets older than 60 days. (2) There should be an investigation into the integrity of DMV’s data systems. (3) There needs to be a reasonable statute of limitations (perhaps 7 years) to prevent these ludicrous situations where people are being bullied into paying tickets for alleged violations that are so old — in some cases decades — they have no reasonable way of defending themselves or providing proof of payment. It’s essentially extortion, since people are forced to pay these alleged debts in order to get driver’s licenses and car registrations that they need to go about their daily lives.
Regarding my personal situation, I’m at a loss as to what to do now that my bank has confirmed that it’s not possible for me to access banking records older than 7 years, which means I have no possible proof of payment. I am deeply frustrated and demoralized by this situation. I would greatly appreciate any recommendations you can offer on how I can try to get this situation resolved in a reasonable manner. Paying $1,100 a second time for old tickets that I already paid a decade ago is not a reasonable nor financially feasible option.
In the end, this situation is about basic fairness and good government. The DC government should not place the burden of proof of innocence on its citizens for alleged debts that DMV, given ample time and opportunity, did not resolve years earlier.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.”