Drivers Fighting D.C. Tickets: Yes You Can!

Thousands of motorists beat parking, traffic tickets

We all know the feeling when you see the pink slip on your car; here’s to another $15, $25, or $50 to city hall for a parking or traffic ticket. Apparently everyone is not shelling out his or her ATM card so quickly, however.

The Washington Examiner reports the numbers are on your side if you decide to challenge your ticket. In the District Department of Motor Vehicles fiscal 2010 “Performance Plan,” 58 percent of drivers beat their moving violation, 41 percent for parking tickets and 37 percent with photo tickets.

And for the ones who loss their challenge; dust yourself off and try again. Nearly one-third won their appeal from lost challenges.

“Protesting they are innocent, more motorists are willing to fight their parking and traffic tickets in small hearing rooms in the District of Columbia, and much to their surprise, they are winning their cases,” said John Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs. “Although only a fraction of ticketed motorists even bother to contest or appeal their tickets, it stands to reason that those who decide to appear before a District ticket adjudicator or to contest the ticket in writing have a far better chance of winning their cases than those who don’t.”

But only a few are fighting back. Records show the city issued about 2.4 million tickets in fiscal 2009, but only 3 percent of photo tickets went to court, 7 percent of parking tickets and 20 percent of moving violations were challenged, according to the Examiner.

These challenges are saving residents in their pockets but costing the District $1 million in lost revenue.

Maybe the $1,000 in unpaid tickets the cars assigned to Mayor Fenty’s and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s offices can help make up the losses.

AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following tips on how to fight tickets in the District:

Although the District is dogged in enforcing local parking laws, motorists hoping to have their tickets voided for a broken meter, for example, should request a hearing with proof in hand, the auto club advises. If you park at a malfunctioning meter or encounter an overstuffed meter that won’t accept quarters, call the District’s 311 number. But make sure you do it before a ticket is issued, Townsend warned. To contest a ticket, AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends the following:

* Use your mobile telephone to snap still photographs or to shoot video of an inoperable meter. 
* Provide proof that the sign above the meter or on-street parking spot was missing or obscured. 
* Call the DC “parking meter repair hotline” without delay at 202/541-6030.
* Provide the meter location and the meter number (the meter number is displayed inside the meter dome or on the side of the meter).
* Keep a written record of the confirmation number provided by the hotline operator, as well as the time, date and the meter location and number.

In the District adjudicators hold the power to dismiss or uphold tickets. Tickets will be dismissed by the DMV in a few other instances too, such as, “if the vehicle experienced sudden mechanical failure” or if the “driver or passenger of the vehicle required immediate medical attention.” However, proof of medical attention is required. The DMV will dismiss the ticket if you weren’t the “owner or lessee of the vehicle on the date that the ticket was issued” or in cases where the “vehicle or vehicle tags were stolen on or before the date the ticket was issued.”

Instead of showing up to contest photo tickets, most motorists are still paying up. That’s a windfall for the District’s coffers, Townsend said. The District government collected $33,377,810 in speed camera ticket revenue, according to Metropolitan Police Department data, plus $7,153,622 in revenue from its red-light camera program during the last budget year, which ended in September. If wrongly ticketed:

* Contest a parking ticket or minor traffic ticket by mail or in person within 30 days of the receipt of the ticket. Fill out the back of the ticket and mark “Deny.” Keep any evidence such as receipts and photograph.
* Dispute a photo enforcement ticket by mail or in person at a scheduled hearing date. Enter a “not guilty” plea at the hearing. Be sure to bring any evidence.
  * To contest a photo ticket by mail, check the boxes marked “I deny commission of the infraction” on the ticket and send it along with a request for a hearing.

By law, in D.C. you can contest a traffic ticket by mail or by appearing at a walk-in hearing at the city's traffic adjudication services within 60 calendar days of the ticket issue date.

Follow the links below for more information about fighting tickets:

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