Friday, December 17, 2010

Mr. Kafka and Parking in DC

Getting a parking ticket in DC is usually considered an unpleasant experience, even when you deserve it. Parking in DC is among the most tweeted about subjects when it comes to living in the District of Columbia. (And 'fess up: When we're angry about a parking ticket, that anger often comes about because we know that we earned the ticket. We're just mad that we got caught.) In the olden days, disputing a parking ticket meant taking off a good chunk of the day to dispute the ticket in person.

Now you can dispute a parking ticket online, in your pajamas while having your morning coffee. But just because there's a computer between you and the human at the Department of Motor Vehicles who looks at the data you submit, doesn't make the system perfect. Nor does it mean that the result of your dispute will make any sense. Here's what happened to on DC resident, as reported on the Tenleytown listserv.
I don't mind paying a ticket when I'm wrong, but what happened this week really burns me.
A few nights ago I got a ticket for parking at an expired meter. The sign said it was okay to park after 6:30. I got the ticket at 7:30.
I went to the DMV website, created an account on the adjudication page and contested the ticket - explaining what the sign said and sending pictures of the sign, the meter and the street. On Friday I got an email saying a decision had been made on my case. I logged into the website and there was one line: "Decision: Liable for ticket." So I paid the ticket.
Three days later I got a letter in the mail from DMV listing the facts that I supposedly submitted to them when I contested the ticket. But the facts in their letter were not the facts I submitted.
The letter said, "The respondent reported that the meter was not operating properly because it displayed the word 'fail.'" In fact, I reported that the sign said it was legal to park after 6:30 (along with photographs of said sign and of the meter and of the street).
So they said I was guilty without explaining why and then after I paid the ticket, they sent me a letter explaining why they'd found me guilty. If I'd had that wording before I paid the ticket, I wouldn't have paid the ticket.

And it gets better. I just got the information on how to appeal the appeal. To appeal a $25 ticket, it costs $60.

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