How do I dispute two dubious parking tickets?
December 20, 2006 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Help me prove I am innocent of a parking infraction. More inside

After receiving no parking tickets in Washington, D.C. for over two years, my wife and I have recently received two parking tickets in the past week. We'd like to contest the tickets by mail if we can, particularly the first one we feel we were definitely hosed on.

Parking ticket #1 - was received for "making the roadway less than 10 feet across." We've taken pictures of the street with our car parked there and a tape measure to attempt to indicate that our car (only 72 inches wide according to Toyota specs, which we will mention) leaves about 15 feet of open space on this road. Unfortunately, the graduations on the tape measure are difficult to see in the photo when we include the entire street with car parked to illustrate our point. I have searched for something to show that the street is at least 20 feet wide (and it might possibly be larger) through the DC government website to no avail. Does anyone know where I could locate this information to prove that the ticket issued is incorrect?

Parking ticket #2 - I suspect that I am going to have to eat this one, but I received a parking ticket at 6:29 pm in a "no parking 4pm to 6:30pm" zone. My Sprint PCS phone indicated that it was 6:31 when I left the car. If I can't reasonably trust that to be accurate, do I have any argument to dispute this ticket other than my watch doesn't match up with your watch?

Thank you for any advice you can provide with previous parking ticket disputes. We can't get abandoned cars ticketed or towed in DC with any success, yet we seem to receive all sorts of dubious and inaccurate tickets.
posted by battlecj to Law & Government (16 answers total)
I don't know about the first one, but the second one, I'm afraid, is a losing battle. The lawkeeper is also the timekeeper, and if their system (I'm assuming DC has some sort of automated ticket producing system, as opposed to a book of tickets and a pen) says it's 6.29, then for legal purposes it's 6.29.

Kinda sucks, but that's the way it goes - unless you can conclusively prove not only that your phone showed it to be 6.31 but that it actually was 6.31, you'll never win this argument.
posted by pdb at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2006

Re: Measuring to show the roadway is more than ten feet across, take a fairly cheap rope and mark it every foot with a very large, black mark. Photograph one of the marks and a measuring tape up close, then photograph the road with the rope stretched across it. If you're really paranoid, bring in the rope to demonstrate each marking is a foot apart. The large, black marks should be clearly visible even in a picture from a ways away.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:18 AM on December 20, 2006

did you measure how far away your car was to the curb? if so you can subtract the sum of the width of your car and the measurement from your car to the curb from the entire width of the road to come up with the figure you are needing. That way you really don't need to photo a rope or a measuring tape.

(I really hope that made sense)
posted by Sassyfras at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2006

I don't think anything will come of this, but let us know if it works out. The reason is mostly anecdotal (I've tried contesting parking tickets and had zero success, whereas with other tickets I've had perfect success) and partly a guess, based on my impression that DC is too overwhelmed to put any effort into adjudicating parking tickets.
posted by Amizu at 11:31 AM on December 20, 2006

I got a parking ticket in DC about two months ago for parking in a residential parking zone without a residential parking permit. The only problem was I had a permit displayed properly on my windshield!

Anyway, I had some free time, so I decided to go down and fight the ticket in person. They have walk-in hearings every day. The way it works is you first go to an office with your tickets and take a number. The parking 'judge' then comes to the room every so often and takes groups of 10 back to a hearing room. The judge then goes in order, and calls each person up to a table to state their case.

The judge has the power to reduce a ticket if they are presented with a convincing argument.

The one thing I learned is that if you are fighting a parking ticket, the judge really requires you to have some evidence. I had taken photos of the parking spot, my parking permit displayed on my car, and the receipt I got when I got my parking permit. The judge dismissed my ticket!

I did notice most of the other people fighting tickets lost their cases. I saw some really bad arguments, and one defendant seemed to have real mental issues.
posted by dcjd at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2006

Parking tickets are a racket. They really exist as a way for cities to make money. The whole system is set up to make you pay.

One can typically successfully defend against them if one, in fact, has a defense.

The problem is that it is a pain in the ass to deal with it.

Cities are smart. They make parking fines reasonable (comparatively). So a person is faced with two options: (1) pay the reasonable fine irrespective of guilt; or (2) go through the complete ass whip to defend against, and in the process incur lots of anger, stress, and wasted time.

My guess is that if you make money by the hour or if your time is precious, you are better off just paying the darn thing. Yeah, it sucks. But sometimes its just not worth your time.
posted by dios at 11:59 AM on December 20, 2006

I work in D.C., and anytime friends of mine have contested legitimately bogus tickets in person, they've been able to get them reduced or dismissed. Photographic evidence is your friend.

I haven't heard of anyone getting out of a time-violation ticket, however.

Good luck.
posted by J-Train at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2006

Ticket #1: Get a few friends and photograph them standing in the road arms streched out fingertip to fingertip. Unless they are obviously elves the evidence should show about how wide the road is.
Ticket #2: One or two minutes should be arguable. You could ask if other cars were ticketed on or around the same time and try to create a timeline. If for example two cars were ticked at the same time or within one minute of each other you could argue that the parking officer was mistaken.
posted by Gungho at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2006

Gungho has a really good point: if you can show that multiple parking tickets were issued at 6:29, then you have pretty strong evidence that the parking enforcement officer was not keeping accurate time.
posted by aberrant at 1:35 PM on December 20, 2006

I live in NYC, not DC, but I contested by mail a ticket very similar to your #2. I left the spot at 8:30am, the no parking went into effect at 8:30, the ticket was written for 8:30, and I wrote basically saying "there's no way their time piece is accurate enough to say whether this was a violation." I got a letter a few weeks later saying my ticket had been dismissed because my argument was persuasive. True story. I've also had tickets over-turned for having the wrong license plate, having the wrong date, etc. It's always worth a shot. In New York, at least, if there's ANYTHING wrong with your ticket, they have to overturn it (supposedly).
posted by one_bean at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2006

Call City Hall, ask who to talk to about contesting tickets. Be polite, friendly and cheerful, because it will help and because these folks catch a lot of flak. Explain that you are in the habit of parking carefully, and feel that these 2 tickets are unreasonable. People do this all the time, and since you have good documentation, you have a good chance.
posted by theora55 at 3:05 PM on December 20, 2006

I got out of a time based ticket here in Chicago due to the time written on the ticket being the same as the sign went into effect, it was ruled ambiguous, and I saved $50.

one_bean above mentions tickets being thrown out for having something wrong on them, I've had a ticket thrown out for the officer scratching out and rewriting a number. So if there's any sort of error on the ticket, contest it.
posted by borkencode at 1:20 AM on December 21, 2006

Thank you to everyone for contributing. I am going to take a shot at contesting both tickets -- contesting the first by showing the road way was clear and contesting the second by asking for some sort of reasonable reduction of the fine. This second ticket, which i received at 6:29, in a no parking at 6:30 zone when I thought it legitimately was after 6:30 was for 100 dollars. I think this is a little steep.

Paying the fines and not worrying about the hassle of contesting is is appealing, but I think think I am going to take my shot at defending myself and my money!

Thanks, again, to everyone.
posted by battlecj at 7:21 AM on December 21, 2006

pdb gets best answer, because I really probably shouldn't contest the second ticket. I know it is a waste of time and will just cause me further agita. Also, he wrote it is "a losing battle." After I contest the ticket, I will be a losing battlecj.
posted by battlecj at 7:32 AM on December 21, 2006

At least in NYC, if a ticket isn't filled out 100% completely and 100% correctly, it's invalid. Check every box.

In particular, ticket writers seldom copy the long VIN, which is on a tag on the driver's side behind the bottom edge of the windshield.

If the ticket writer had one of the tiny comptuers that read the VIN tag, though, you're out of luck.
posted by KRS at 12:40 PM on December 21, 2006

I realize this is a late update, but we recently received the results of contesting both of the above parking tickets. Both were dismissed and we don't have to pay anything. I don't have any information on why they were dismissed other than I challenged them with an explanation of the situation.
posted by battlecj at 10:24 AM on August 28, 2007

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