THE ODDS OF WINNING IN DISTRICT TRAFFIC COURT
ARE IN YOUR FAVOR, BUT YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP
District MPD Will Expand Automated Enforcement Arsenal in New Budget Year
But Hearing Examiners Dismissed 55% Of Traffic Ticket Cases So Far in FY 2012
WASHINGTON, D. C. (Monday, March 26, 2012) – After getting hit with six speed camera tickets totaling over $800 by the controversial speed camera situated in the 1900 block of Branch Avenue S.E. on successive weekends, Ginger Carlin and her husband, John-Michael, had had enough. The Charles County couple paid the first two tickets. Yet they decided to contest their four remaining moving violations before a hearing examiner with the District of Columbia’s DMV Adjudication Services.
With traffic tickets in hand, Mrs. Carlin was elated by the outcome of her decision to appear at a walk-in hearing at Adjudication Services. After hearing her case – they had never gotten any warnings before racking up the tickets - the traffic adjudicator threw out three of their four tickets on a technicality – the rules of evidence, she tells AAA Mid-Atlantic. She is not alone, the motorists’ advocacy group says.
Hearing examiners with the DMV Adjudication Services have dismissed 32 percent of the automated enforcement traffic tickets in the 9,650 cases they heard so far in FY 2012, according to an analysis by AAA Mid-Atlantic. Fighting city hall might be tougher to do in the next budget cycle. By coincidence, as outlined in his FY13 budget proposal, Mayor Vincent Gray has announced an expansion of the city’s automated enforcement program and improvements in the issuance of traffic citations.
“Most ticketed motorists fail to realize the odds of getting a fair hearing on their traffic citation are in their favor in the District,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “The latest figures should give them an incentive to always show up in court. Yet, instead of showing up to contest their tickets, and to clear their record of the violation, many motorists, take the path of least resistance and pay up, even though they believe they didn’t deserve the ticket.”
Case Dismissed: Traffic Ticket Adjudication Process In Washington, D. C.
# Parking Tickets Adjudicated
% Parking Tickets
# Moving Violations
% Moving Violations Dismissed
FY 2012, to date
While traffic ticket adjudicators also dismissed 32 percent of the 42,104 photo ticket cases they heard in FY 2011, as a rule hearing examiners only voided out 19 percent of the 45,632 photo tickets adjudicated in the District the year before, FY 2010.
However, those surprising figures pale in comparison to the annualized traffic ticket dismissal rates of drivers formally contesting moving violations and parking tickets before hearing examiners during both FY 2010 and FY 2011, and so far in FY 2012, the analysis by AAA Mid-Atlantic shows.
The ticket dismissal rate during that time period works out to 54.6 percent for contested moving violations and to an average of 48 percent for challenged parking tickets. That data is tucked away in the FY 2012 Performance Plan of the District Department of Motor Vehicles.
Rebecca Forsyth fought her tickets by email. She admits she was repeatedly ticketed by the new speed camera in the 600 block of Missouri Avenue N.W., both northwest bound and southeast bound. In an email to AAA Mid-Atlantic, she said the city did not post warning signs near the location before it started issuing “live tickets.”
Although the normal processing time for sending the notice of a photo-enforced violation is three weeks, or 20 to 25 days, and Ms. Forsyth says she unwittingly triggered the speed camera during the 30-day warning period, the city never mailed the warning citation to her.
Putting her defense and evidence in writing, Ms. Forsyth complained that she and other motorists have gotten a “succession of tickets before they were made aware of those cameras.” She tells the auto club, “To my shock and surprise, I not only had two tickets, but four, and they were all dismissed due to a ‘technicality.’”
She is encouraging other motorists who think they were wrongly ticketed to take their case to DMV Adjudication Services. “I hope they have their citations adjudicated and have the same luck I had. This has truly opened my eyes throughout this city,” she writes.
Motorists with parking tickets and other moving violations had even greater odds of success in the DMV hearing process, observes AAA Mid-Atlantic. More often than not, District ticket adjudicators also dismissed 55 percent of the adjudicated moving violations so far in FY 2012, the report show.
Traffic adjudication examiners heard 12,143 moving violation cases at the time of the report. More often than not, hearing examiners dismissed 59% of the 50, 116 moving violations they adjudicated during FY 2011.
Examiners ripped up half, 50%, of the 42,373 adjudicated moving violations during FY 2010. What is more, examiners tossed out 52% of the 62,889 parking ticket cases they heard so far in FY 2012, 50% of 186,805 adjudicated parking tickets in FY 2011, and 42% of 209,818 parking ticket cases in FY 2010.
“The object lesson is clear. In the District, traffic adjudicators hold the power to dismiss or uphold tickets,” Townsend said. “If motorists believe they were wrongly ticketed, or they didn’t deserve the ticket for a traffic violation, and they have the evidence to prove it, they should always contest the ticket. However, if you pay the ticket without contesting it, you lose your right to appeal the ticket.”
However, if you are planning to fight your traffic ticket, the District Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is currently weighing whether to charge an administrative hearing fee to adjudicate tickets during in-person administrative hearings and the mail-in adjudication process.
That strategy is outlined in the DMV’s FY 12 Performance Plan. The DMV plans to do so “in order to reduce the increase” in what the city agency calls “frivolous adjudication requests, which unnecessarily tie up agency resources and increases adjudication wait times.”
To appeal a parking ticket or a photo-enforced violation, the motorist must pay the fine, the penalty, and submit a $50 transcript deposit fee, plus a $10 appeal fee, the District DMV says.
Appealing a traffic ticket is a time-consuming process in Washington, D.C. Because the appeal process can take up to 24 months to decide your case, by DMV’s own admission, the agency now plans to create an additional Appeals Board. The agency currently has two Appeals Boards in place, and it believes a newly created appeals board will “reduce the time period for reviewing appeals requests”
AAA Mid-Atlantic advocates on behalf of its nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It provides a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 50-plus retail branches, regional operations centers, and the Internet. For more information, please visit our web site at www.AAA.com. ###
John B. Townsend II
Phone: (202) 481-6820
Contact: Lon Anderson
Phone: (202) 481-6820