Losing The Right to Fight A Ticket
Come next year, anyone who lives, works in or visits the District by car will lose a basic right--the right to protest a parking ticket in front of a hearing officer.
The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles' plan for 2008 includes this sentence: "DMV will complete the phase-out of in-person adjudication of parking tickets in favor of mail-in and e-mail adjudication by December 2008."
There's a bunch of nonsense in the "performance plan" about how this change is meant to reduce waiting times for those who are appealing more serious cases--moving violations and the like. But recipients of tickets suspect that the real reason for the change is to save money and perhaps to shift the balance of power from those who have had good success fighting tickets back to the bureaucrats whose job it is to raise revenue for the city.
Advocates for motorists say there's a nationwide drive by cities and states to push up revenue from tickets in part by making it harder for ticketed citizens to make any kind of appeal for human mercy. In Boston, for example, it can now cost $275 in fees to appeal a $100 ticket.
But in Washington, there's at least some reason to believe that you're better off protesting a ticket by mail than in person. My own anecdotal experience from sitting in on hearings at the D.C. DMV tells me that hearing officers do occasionally bend to appeals accompanied by teary or pleading speeches, but the statistics tell a different and more persuasive story: More than 55 percent of those who fought their tickets in the past year got those citations dismissed. But a considerably higher portion of those who made their stand by mail rather than in person got off--fully 65 percent.
So maybe the city won't win more cases by eliminating in-person hearings. Still, given such egregiously high levels of error by meter maids and police, the least the city could do to assure fairness is to allow those who receive tickets a chance to present their evidence in person. There are a good many cases in which a paper explanation cannot quite capture the circumstances under which a ticket was issued. And I've seen all too many cases in which the rationale for dismissing a ticket did not emerge from the initial arguments, but rather from the question and answer exchange that a hearing officer engages in with the recipient of the ticket. That process would entirely vanish under an exclusively mail or email system.
Of course, there are other ways for the DMV to save money. The same plan that announces the end of in-person hearings says that the department will spent $20,000 to put all DMV employees through "cultural competency training" by March 2008, flushing away taxpayer dollars to instruct workers on "linguistic diversity, ethnic diversity and sexual orientation." For DMV workers. Somebody's getting a nice government contract on that one. Another $20,000 is being spent to "develop a customer satisfaction survey," as if there's any doubt about what taxpayers want from their visit to the DMV. And another $30,000 is being spent to create five public service announcements to be foisted upon people who are stuck in the DMV waiting room, adding insult to injury.
By Marc Fisher |
December 5, 2007; 7:10 AM ET
Previous: Va. Loyalty Oath: GOP In A Sad Corner | Next: Pretend Primary: What The Candidates Won't Address
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Wakka Wakka | December 5, 2007 7:51 AM
Posted by: WA2CHI | December 5, 2007 8:23 AM
Posted by: Payne | December 5, 2007 8:26 AM
Posted by: jj | December 5, 2007 8:49 AM
Posted by: 20009 | December 5, 2007 8:54 AM
Posted by: Steve | December 5, 2007 8:54 AM
Posted by: Dan | December 5, 2007 9:44 AM
Posted by: Arlingtonian | December 5, 2007 10:04 AM
Posted by: fendertweed | December 5, 2007 11:02 AM
Posted by: cpw | December 5, 2007 11:05 AM
Posted by: Paulo | December 5, 2007 11:37 AM
Posted by: CW | December 5, 2007 11:47 AM
Posted by: eo mcmars | December 5, 2007 11:52 AM
Posted by: DCer | December 5, 2007 11:55 AM
Posted by: 20016 | December 5, 2007 12:25 PM
Posted by: Chris | December 5, 2007 12:53 PM
Posted by: washington, dc | December 5, 2007 1:08 PM
Posted by: Capitol Hiller | December 5, 2007 2:19 PM
Posted by: Mike Licht | December 5, 2007 3:07 PM
Posted by: BK | December 5, 2007 3:12 PM
Posted by: eo mcmars | December 5, 2007 3:23 PM
Posted by: Wrongfully Ticketed | December 5, 2007 3:44 PM
Posted by: Mike Licht | December 5, 2007 5:22 PM
Posted by: Gasmonkey | December 5, 2007 5:29 PM
Posted by: courthouseguy | December 6, 2007 2:46 PM
Posted by: didnik | December 6, 2007 4:47 PM
Posted by: arlingtonscoflaw | December 12, 2007 10:56 AM
Posted by: MurderTheGovernment | January 15, 2008 10:23 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.