If the increased metro fare in Washington, DC doesn't consume commuters' paychecks, the parking tickets certainly will. Emily Miller, author of "Emily Gets Her Gun," is the chief investigative reporter for Fox 5. Wednesday night, the local DC-based news station aired her latest report in which she exposed how the local government is finding any excuse to dole out those unpopular pink slips to unsuspecting drivers.
During her investigation, Miller abided by the law, using a Parkmobile app to pay for parking. Yet, upon her return from her yoga class, found a neatly placed ticket on her dashboard, informing her she received a fine for not placing a paper receipt on her car. How many other people, she wondered, were losing money paying with the app?
But, the most ridiculous ticket she received, involved the condition of her city-provided registration.
Apparently, Miller's registration had become unglued while parked and she had "failed to properly affix sticker."
However, she showed viewers a picture of the evidence that suggests otherwise:
"You can clearly see all the information on my registration sticker."
In court, the hearing examiner offered her a deal for half off. Miller still wasn’t buying it:
"I just paid $125 for this sticker a month ago. Now I want to pay $25 more?"
She claimed that the meter maid's photo showed that the sticker was originally put below the black defrost line, which is absurd.
Miller went through the rest of the court process and found she had the option to appeal her case, yet she'd have to pay the initial fine, plus an appeal fine.
Miller summed up the injustice:
"The government is buying cheap tickets and faulting us."
In another instance of the government benefiting from its own mistake, Miller explained how one person supposedly ended up with a poor credit score because of a ticket that never got sent to his house.
Miller interviewed a bank employee who claims to know victims of bad credit score in consequence of a parking violation:
“I actually work at a bank and some people will have mortgages years later, and because of a D.C. parking ticket that never got sent to their house, they can't get a loan, they can't get a mortgage, everything is in trouble,” said Sonia Benjelloun.
Miller tried to request a FOIA from the Department of Motor Vehicles seeking an explanation for these questionable fines. Their response? "The DMV is not required to answer questions."
As Miller asked, "What does that even mean?"
Miller wasn't the only one to call foul on the city’s eagerness to hand out parking tickets. Fox 5 Anchor Tony Perkins also chastised the local government for being too obsessed with "little nitpicky things like this, it's ridiculous."
Thanks to all these nitpicky violations, the city council expects to pocket $61 million next year from parking fines. That is $100 a year for every man, woman and child in the city, according to Fox 5.
I think it’s inevitable that anyone living in the Beltway knows someone who has been victim to the local government’s iffy parking laws. My roommate's friend got a ticket for not backing into spot. My other friend got a ticket for an expired meter, even though she says the meter itself was malfunctioning. She entered a month-long battle in which she had to write the government a letter and print out copies of receipts at the restaurants she went to while she was parked. She ended up not having to pay because her ticket had not even been entered in the system. As you know now, others are not so lucky.
Many drivers consider it more of a hassle to fight the system than to pay the fine. Here were a few of the common complaints Miller found on the street:
"Seems like it would take half a day or more and it’s just such a hassle."
“Just the idea of going to traffic court and the possible hours it would take – it just sounds terrible.”
Can we still criticize the government if we don't voice our frustrations?
Thankfully, more people are speaking up. Immediately after Fox aired Miller's segment, local drivers sped to their phones.
Drivers shouldn't have to be victims. With the revelation that the DC government is raking in millions of dollars off commuters, residents may soon take another look at walking to work - or moving somewhere else.
Watch the full report here:
DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG