Investigating wrongdoing across D.C. area

Ticket Tango

D.C. tickets people for cars they don't own

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    NEWSLETTERS

    People from all over the area report getting D.C. tickets for vehicles that aren't theirs. Jac Harker and Jake Waley explain their ticket situations, and Lucinda Babers, Director of D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles, responds. This story was published Feb. 14, 2012 - 10:40 p.m. (Published Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012)

    No one likes getting a ticket, especially when it's not their fault. 

    The News4 I-Team Tipline recently started getting calls from people all over the area with the same problem: They’re getting tickets for cars they don’t even own.

    Jac Harker, of Centreville, Va., loves to ride his Harley Davidson motorcycle around Fairfax County -- but not in D.C.

    "This motorcycle has never been in the District of Columbia in its life," he said.

    That hasn’t stopped the D.C. government from sending Harker three parking tickets: one for a Ford truck and two for Honda sedans.

    He points to his motorcycle: "This is not a four door Honda Sedan."

    His personalized tag read “JAC” and somehow became linked to vehicles he doesn’t own.

    Around the same time, Jake Waley, of Waldorf, Md., called the News4 I-Team when he started getting tickets from D.C.

    He contested the first one through the city’s online adjudication process.

    "A couple of weeks later I get another ticket” for the same vehicle, he said.

    A UPS truck.

    “Never drove a UPS truck,” Waley said.  "I'm most frustrated with the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles."

    Lucinda Babers is the Director of D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which sent the overdue tickets to both Harker and Waley.

    "There are in fact errors that are made during the ticket writing process,” Babers said.

    She said she understands their frustration but explains the whole adjudication process exists because ticket writers do make mistakes.

    “It’s your responsibility to provide evidence.”

    Meaning, even if it’s not your fault, you can’t ignore the ticket.  You have to prove it’s not your vehicle by providing the DMV your registration.

    The DMV dismissed Waley’s tickets after it confirmed with Maryland’s MVA that he does not drive a UPS truck.

    But both he and Harker want to know, "How many of them are cases like mine?"

    Babers said the DMV doesn’t know because it doesn’t have a way to red flag people in the system who have mistakenly received tickets in the past.

    "We do not do cross checks on tickets that were already written," Babers said.

    As Danny White in Northwest found out, that burden can cost time and money.

    He said he can get, "Five tickets a week,” at times.  “They just kept coming, kept coming, kept coming."

    White's had to take time off from work to fight the dozens of tickets for cars that don’t match his red Chevy Avalanche.

    "They sent through a collection agency saying I owe $505 for a ticket I don't own. It's a Dodge."

    That’s because the DMV says no matter what, don’t ignore the tickets.  After 120 days, the DMV sends tickets to collection.

    Waley also received a collection notice along with annoying phone calls.

    "The collection agent called me,” Waley said. "'’We're going to send this thing to the credit bureau.’  And I said, ‘You can't do that. I'm trying to get my house refinanced and if you do that, it's going to mess me up.'"

    Leaving Waley and the others wondering just how much they’ll end up paying for something they didn’t do.


    Tomorrow on News 4 at 5 p.m. see why one of the men we interviewed in this story racked up more than $20,000 in tickets for a vehicle he doesn’t own and why his call to the I-Team now has D.C. ticket writers changing the way they operate.