Nobody likes to make a trip to the DMV to argue over parking tickets, red light tickets or speeding tickets.
But they do.
The District’s motor vehicles office says about 350,000 tickets were challenged in the past year either online or in person at DMV offices.
But as much as people don’t like the tickets they feel are unfair, many motorists do a slow burn over the time it takes to marshal evidence and appear at the traffic adjudication office. The rules on challenging a ticket are tough, too. One official said cell phone photographs aren’t accepted as evidence even though the quality of such photos is unquestioned. Challenges also take months and even years to resolve.
At the DMV office at 301 C Street NW Monday, News4’s cameras ran into one furloughed federal worker challenging a $55 ticket for parking illegally. She had evidence there were no parking signs in sight. If she didn’t pay it, the ticket would double to $110.
“Yeah, and I don’t have $110 because I’m furloughed as it is,” she said. “If I’m guilty, I’ll pay the ticket, but …”
The D.C. Council has heard enough complaints.
Although services at the city’s DMV offices are far better than their notorious reputation of the past, the council members are considering new legislation to give motorists more time to gather evidence. One measure of a proposed bill would even void the ticket if the DMV failed to respond within six months.
Another provision would allow someone to challenge a ticket up to two years after it was issued.
“I think we actually can make some changes so that people feel that they had a full and fair opportunity to bring their arguments to bear,” said Council member Mary Cheh, chairman of the council’s transportation committee. She told News4, “At the end of the day, that’s probably the most important thing.”
D.C. DMV Director Lucinda Babers said she’s in favor of streamlining the ticket challenge process but cautioned that it may require more staff. And she said the system can’t be lax or guilty citizens will try to take advantage of it.
Under the new changes, a motorist would still have to pay the full ticket amount in advance and a $10 fee for each ticket being challenged.
“And the purpose of that is to really make sure there are no frivolous appeals because that would add to the amount of time” it takes to handle real issues,” she said. If a motorist wins any appeal, the ticket amounts and the $10 fees are refunded.
The legislation altering the ticket appeal process is far from law.
Cheh herself said there may be more revisions before it comes up for a vote, possibly later this year.
Council members don’t have to worry too much about tickets. By law they are exempt and may park in spaces that are illegal for the rest of us, excluding fire hydrants, handicapped accessible zones and crosswalks.
But has Cheh gotten any parking tickets on her personal car when she’s not on council business? She says, no.
“Oddly enough – you can check my record – I don’t have any tickets,” she said. “I’m just lucky. I’m not saying I’m holy.”