Drivers Owe DC Nearly Half a Billion Bucks in Unpaid Tickets

Here's which states' drivers owe the most, and why they’re not paying up

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Drivers owe the D.C. government almost a half a billion dollars in unpaid fines, and many of those tickets are decades old.

One reason so many tickets go unpaid by out-of-state drivers is, for the majority of these tickets, states don’t offer reciprocity, so D.C. can't revoke, for instance, a Maryland driver's license or tag if a driver doesn't pay up.

"It's fundamentally unfair that there are all sorts of penalties for D.C. residents who don't pay their tickets, but there aren't any for Maryland and Virginia drivers," said Evan Yeats, a Ward 4 ANC commissioner.

The District issues thousands of tickets each year: parking tickets, moving violations issued by police, and the most prolific mechanism: tickets issued via photo enforcement. They come with stiff fines, but millions of those tickets have gone unpaid.

Dating back 20 years, here’s how much is left unpaid, which states' drivers owe the most:

For parking tickets, D.C. drivers owe almost $19 million; Virginia drivers more than $45 million, and Maryland drivers owe the most, at more than $64 million. When you add in all the other states, the total is more than $165 million in parking tickets alone.

As for unpaid moving violations issued by police, D.C. drivers owe more than $7 million, as do Maryland drivers, and Virginia drivers more than $2 million. The total in this category is more than $21 million.

The most money is owed for photo-enforced tickets. In that category, Maryland drivers owe more than all other drivers combined: $157 million. District drivers owe more than $28 million, and Virginia drivers owe more than $71 million. When you add in fines owed by drivers from other states, the total reaches nearly $300 million.

Add all up those unpaid tickets, and the grand total is more than $485 million.

On Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser explained how she hopes to solve that problem.

"Now it's time for all of us to sit at the table to have a regional enforcement campaign, and ticket payment is key to that," Bowser said.

Every state offers reciprocity for minor moving violations issued by officers that carry points, but photo and parking tickets don’t carry points.

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