D.C.

So you got a parking or camera ticket? Here's what to do

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(WJLA) - So you got a Parking or Camera Enforcement ticket in D.C.? Well, you aren’t alone.

According to AAA, the DMV processed nearly 3 million parking and traffic tickets, and while the vast majority are them were probably properly written, there are going to be mistakes. If you think you’ve fallen into that margin of error here’s what you need to know.

When you get a ticket, you have three options: admit guilt and pay the fine, “admit with explanation,” or deny the citation.

The Clock is Ticking:

Should you elect to just pay the fine, do it within 30 days of receiving it or a penalty equal to the fine will be added, doubling the cost to you. If you decide to “admit with explanation” or deny the ticket all together, you have 60 days to file your challenge to contest it. The DMV allows you to challenge a ticket online (dmv.dc.gov) or by appearing at a walk-in hearing.

Speaking from experience, thanks to a speed camera on Porter that caught 7 On Your Side going a little too fast, the DC DMV deserves credit for developing a fairly straightforward, user-friendly online challenge process.

DO NOT PAY THE TICKET AS PART OF YOUR INITIAL ATTEMPT TO CHALLENGE THE CITATION -- paying the ticket admits guilt and ends the adjudication process. In the event that extenuating circumstances cause you to miss the 60 day window to challenge your ticket, you must file a “Motion to Vacate Judgment."

If you miss the 60 day window, you have to file a “Motion to Vacate Judgment” within 120 days of the citation to determine if your challenge can move forward. Bottom line, time is of the essence.

Submit Proper Evidence:

If you decide to challenge the ticket there are some things you need to know, because if you don’t follow these rules, you will lose.

The single most important thing to remember is submit proper supporting documentation at the beginning of the process. Don’t even bother with what DMV Director Lucinda Babers calls the, “I was in bed asleep at the time of the ticket” defense. It is not sufficient to simply provide an unsubstantiated claim that you didn’t do it. You MUST submit evidence supporting your defense when you make your initial challenge.

While several DC agencies write parking tickets, the DMV is not one of them. In fact, most are written by the Department of Public Works. In most cases, 72 hours after a ticket being issued, DPW posts images like the one above of a street-cleaning closure sign indicating the violation, the ticketed vehicle and the ticket itself online. Look for “TICPIX” on the DPW website.

“All supporting documentation needs to be submitted when customers submit their initial request for adjudication,” says DMV Public Information Specialist Vanessa Newton, “If they find supporting documentation after they have filed the request and before a decision has been rendered, then they can mail the documentation to DC DMV. They must include the ticket number on the additional information so that Adjudication Services knows what ticket to associate the documentation with.”

The address is:
DMV Adjudication Services
Attn: Mail Adjudication
PO Box 37135
Washington, DC 20013

Follow Directions:

The process to challenge a ticket can have two phases.

The initial phase is to challenge the ticket. A Hearing Administrator will review your supporting evidence and respond (this can take months), and may ask you to provide additional information within a 10-15 day window. 7 On Your Side has heard from viewers who were confused by the letter from the Hearing Administrator seeking more information because it may contain general language at the bottom about the appeal process. Assume if the letter asks you for additional information, you should provide that before you consider a formal appeal.

In fact, people jumping ahead and starting the appeal process before it’s necessary is one of the most common mistakes drivers make says DMV leadership.

“This is premature because the hearing examiner has not rendered a decision,” explains Newton. “Customers need to provide the requested documentation only to allow the hearing examiner to review the information and then make a decision. DC DMV will notify the customer in writing once a decision has been rendered. If the customer disagrees with the decision, then he or she can appeal the ticket.”

“By appealing a ticket before a decision has been rendered, then the customer has to wait for the Traffic Adjudication Appeals Board (TAAB) to render a decision. Additionally, TAAB will only see the information initially submitted, which is what the hearing examiner used to make his or her initial decision. If the customer provided DC DMV with the additional information and submitted an appeal simultaneously, then the hearing examiner did not have the opportunity to review the additional information; therefore, TAAB will not be provided with the additional information for its review,” says Newton.

At the point where you’ve received the final response from a hearing examiner denying your challenge, you can enter the second phase of DC DMV ticket adjudication -- filing an appeal. At this point, pay the ticket and the required $10 appeal fee. You’ll want to park your impatience, the appeal process currently has about a 20 month backlog. The DMV does offer an email ticket alert system for qualifying drivers.

That’s Not My Car:
Jeff Peake, from Greensboro, MD expired a complaint we receive regularly at 7 On Your Side. He received two parking tickets written for his license plate, but indicated the vehicles parked illegally were UPS and Fedex delivery vans. Peake drives a GMC Sierra pickup.

Melissa Brennan’s personalized Virginia License Plate, 911 RN, is very similar to that another Virginia motorist whose Infinity G35 sedan has tags 9i1 RN

“I received five tickets that had the wrong license plate,” she says. “It wasn’t my license plate.”

Brennan did not formally challenge the tickets thinking her calls to notify the agency of the mistake was sufficient. A phone call is not. While Peake did try to challenge the ticket, he was told he did not submit sufficient evidence.

For your challenge to have a shot at being successful, it is critical you provide a copy of your vehicle registration proving it is not the one noted on the citation. A photo of your vehicle can’t hurt either.

"But I used the App:"

Christen Eliason’s trip to the Smithsonian in February of 2013 resulted in a frustrating ticket. She’d paid to park using the ParkMobile App, but got a ticket for an expired meter. The vast majority of the time, the App works really well, but once and a while there’s an issue.

To adjudicate an expired meter ticket involving the App, the DMV requires you include the detailed ParkMobile ‘sessions’ receipt. Make sure it includes the type of vehicle, the zone parked in, the location, the vehicle’s tag, the start Date/Time, the end Date/Time, the duration paid, the parking cost, and the transaction fee.

“By doing so, the customer is providing specific, detailed information that will be used in the adjudication process,” says DMV spokesperson Newton.

Not submitting the “ParkMobile Detailed Session” report is one of the most common mistakes drivers make when challenging a DMV citation.
Similarly, if you paid at a meter that dispenses a paper receipt include the original (or picture of the receipt if submitting online).

The Proper Picture:

When Stephen Combs received a parking ticket for not obeying a street sweeping sign when the sign was not in effect, he challenged the ticket.

His initial challenge was denied in part because the picture of the sign he submitted did not match the one uploaded by the DPW ticket writer.
Take advantage of the pictures posted on the DPW site to make sure you submit images that full support your case.

Bottom line: If you are going to challenge a ticket, do it in the first 30 days of receiving the citation, follow the rules and provide the required relevant supporting evidence from the beginning. Be patient because the process takes time. When you get a response from the DC DMV read it thoroughly before proceeding. Most importantly, do not pay the appeal fee until your initial challenge has been denied.

Of course, if you believe the system has failed you, email 7 On Your Side at 7onyourside@wjla.com and we’ll try to help.

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