Traffic Cam Ticket, but It's Not My Car!
July 12, 2013 12:22 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago we received a notice from the DMV in Washington, DC, that "our" vehicle was photographed violating some law or other, and a fine was issued. However, the notice was addressed not to an individual but to "Recreational Passport." And the vehicle photographed was not ours, nor one we've ever owned.

We moved into this house in November 2012, so perhaps the violation notice was intended for a previous resident (it's a rental home). We ignored the first notice, since it didn't apply to us, but yesterday we received another notice, this time with the fine increased because we missed "our" court date. Should we continue to just ignore this, since the ticket doesn't apply to us? Or should we notify Washington that they've got the wrong address? I'm just leery of contacting them at all, because I know all DMVs get thousands of "that's not my car" calls per day and tend to be skeptical of such claims. If all they have is an address, can this unpaid ticket show up on my driving record or my husband's? I'd hate to be pulled over one day for some minor offense and then find out we have an outstanding warrant for this DC ticket.
posted by Oriole Adams to Law & Government (11 answers total)
I wouldn't call. Your best bet would be to go in person to clear it up. Bring your car's registration information and they should be able figure out very quickly that they have the wrong folks.
posted by singinginmychains at 12:39 PM on July 12, 2013

It's not addressed to you? It's not your car? Is there anything at all in it that relates to you -- VIN, first name, last name, anything?!? If not, it's actually just some random piece of mail that ended up in your mailbox that you opened and you may ignore it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:40 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would cross out the adressee "Recreational Passport" on the envelope and write addressee unknown on the outside of the envelope and give it back to the mail carrier.

If I didn't want to go through that trouble, I would ignore it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:41 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't call. Your best bet would be to go in person to clear it up. Bring your car's registration information and they should be able figure out very quickly that they have the wrong folks.
Difficult for us to go in person, we live in Michigan and the citation is from Washington DC.

The citation doesn't have a person's name, just that "Recreational Passport" thing (is that a company name or something?). The vehicle in the photo is a Toyota, and we've never owned anything other than a Chrysler or a Ford (long line of UAW members in our family). The only thing that "ties" the notice to us is the street address.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:47 PM on July 12, 2013

The Recreational Passport is a Michigan program that links your vehicle registration to pre-payment of access fees for state parks, etc. I thought to google because Alaska has a similar program.

Michigan's Recreation Passport to State Parks and So Much More!
By purchasing the Recreation Passport when you renew your license plate registration, you'll experience state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, non-motorized trails, boat launches and hundreds of Passport Perks shopping discounts from around the state. You'll also support historic and cultural sites in state parks and grants for neighborhood parks.
Sample, Recreation passport, tab, registration

The two tiny "P's" printed at the top and bottom of your license plate tab-your Recreation Passport proof of purchase-are small in size, but their many benefits aren't! Check "YES" for the Recreation Passport when you renew your license plate at a Secretary of State branch office, self service station, by mail or online. It's valid until your next vehicle plate renewal date. And that's good for you and great for Michigan!

Perhaps a former occupant used your address for the Recreational Passport, moved, and didn't update their vehicle registration?
posted by charmcityblues at 12:54 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not your car, and it's not in your name. Therefore it is not your citation to worry about. Just like if you got a bill in the mail for a previous tenant, you wouldn't worry about it affecting your credit, right? (right?!?! because you shouldn't.)
posted by joan_holloway at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2013

You opened someone else's mail that was erroneously delivered to your address. It contains a traffic citation applicable only to that someone else to whom the mail was sent. I see no reason to believe you have been given notice of anything or accused of anything.

You say you received notice that "our" vehicle was photographed etc, but that's not true. Nothing in the notice says anything about you or your vehicle. I don't blame you for curiously opening the mail, since it may not have been clear that it was not sent to you. But now you know it's not your mail, so treat it like you would any other piece of mail erroneously addressed to someone other than you at your address.
posted by The World Famous at 1:05 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there any reason not to toss it back in (your own) mailbox with "RETURN TO SENDER - NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS" or "NO SUCH PERSON AT THIS ADDRESS" written in big red letters on the front? Maybe, if they do get it back at the DC bureau of whatever, they will at least stop sending things to your address.

Agree, though, if it does not have your plate number, VIN, or name, it should not attach to you.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:07 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does the ticket have a box to check for "not me" or "not my car" (or both)? Tickets around here do. If so, just check that and send it back. If not, send it back with a big "this is not us or our car" note on it. Traffic cam tickets sometimes aren't reviewed by a human until this step is taken, at which time it should be pretty easy to tell that it's indeed not you. Maybe send them copies of your actual names and car registrations to make it really easy for the human who reviews this to understand.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:59 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I received an erroneous traffic ticket from Washington, DC, while living states away in Missouri, I sent the ticket back with a letter. I remember that it was a red-light camera photograph, but that's all; I think they misread the license plate or something.

Anyway, I stated in the letter that it was not my ticket, not my car, and that I was not in DC at the time of the ticket- that I was several states away at the time. I mailed it off, possibly as a certified letter or maybe just delivery confirmation.

I never heard or received anything else in regards to the matter, so I believe this was a successful way of handling the situation.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:36 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

This looks like a database reconciliation problem! Hurrah! Welcome to my life! This is all hypothetical.

There is a Recreational Passport database. There is a License Plate Database. There is a plate cam database. There is some kind of connector that was created because they used to not be connected, and the license plate database predates all of them. The previous owner of the house moved, and let the Secretary of State know. The Secretary of State changed their address in their system.

However! The Secretary of State address change routine probably is not aware that there is a new field, so it doesn't delete it. All of a sudden, the cascade delete is broken! But only kind of, because it did drop the person. Except there is the field, Recreational Passport, and it is still associated with an address, which is still associated with a plate. Maybe the Rec Passport got shoved into an pseudo address field, because that was easy.

The plate cam database connects to the license plate database, and grabs the first result. It's wrong, but it doesn't know that, There is a name and address. Validation(if there is validation) passes.

The end result, is that at some point a trouble ticket will be opened and a database person and applications developer will get to fight the behemoth of the license pate database (and the other two) to try and fix this problem without breaking anything else. Also Michigan is broke, so it can't take too long, because they only have a contract for 15 hours a week of support.

tl;dr Call the Secretary of State, send it back with an explanatory note, or even better actually go there and interact with a real person, as painful as that may be. It isn't your car, you aren't in trouble, but it will be easier to take care of this now.
posted by rockindata at 2:57 PM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

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