FOX 5 demands answers from DMV about old parking tickets

FOX 5 has been doing a series of reports on D.C.'s new effort to collect unpaid tickets from 10 to 30 years ago. Monday night, FOX 5's Emily Miller reported that you could find out that you have unpaid tickets and have your license suspended, even if you live in Maryland and Virginia.

We've heard from so many viewers about these tickets from D.C. that are popping up out of nowhere. No one remembers getting them, but some of these people say they can prove they are innocent.

The D.C. DMV says you can only go to traffic court and adjudicate within 60 days. So are we all just stuck paying?  We went to the director of the DMV for answers.

When Andi James bought a new car in December, the dealer said she couldn't get D.C. license plates because the DMV flagged her account. She found out that the block was from two unpaid parking tickets from 15 years ago. The total, with fines and fees, was $150.

James believes she is innocent.  "I've always paid my tickets. I don't even let them double," she said.

The DMV can't give her copies of the tickets. All James knows is the address of the infraction, which was Q Street, Northwest.

"I don't recall being in that area," said James.  

She wanted to fight the tickets, but the DMV clerk said it was not possible since the tickets were more than 60 days old.

"I was told my option was to pay it and get tags, or not pay it, and of course, I wouldn't get my tags. I needed my tags so I paid," said James.

Kathleen Haddad, PhD, who lives in Bethesda, was stunned last summer to get a call from a collections agency for unpaid parking tickets in D.C. from the 1990s.

When she stopped working in the city a few years ago, she went to the DMV to close her account.

"In 2011, when I was there to pay another ticket, I asked, ‘What else do I owe?' And I was told, ‘Nothing.' That is what is infuriating to me. And not being notified that they changed their minds and decided yes, you do owe something," said Haddad.

She was given a list of parking tickets from the 1990s. The total with fines and fees was over $500. She says the tickets may be hers, but she was told she had a clean record.

"D.C. has to face the fact that if they're going to resurrect old debt like this, they are going to have a public relations problem. People aren't going to like it," said Haddad.

Remember Marny and Stanley Britt? They had to pay $4,000 dollars for tickets, some of which they said aren't for cars they have owned, and others they said were already paid.

"There's absolutely no proof anywhere of whether or not it's been paid or not because we're not keeping receipts for 15 to 20 years. The IRS doesn't even make you keep them for over seven!" said Marny.

FOX 5's Emily Miller asked DMV Director Lucinda Babers about what people can do.

"If they walk in and say they want to adjudicate tickets and the tickets are 15 years old, the response is your time period is over," said Babers.

Miller said, "They go to register their car -- or go to get a new driver's license -- and they're told: ‘You have to pay this $4,000 or you have to pay this $6,000 or you can't get it.' End of story. No due process. I don't understand how you're saying these people can do something."

"I said Emily, they can go to adjudication," Babers responded.

"So you're saying, no matter how old these tickets, they can go to adjudication?" Miller asked.

"Not to adjudicate, but they can go for investigation," Babers replied.

"If these people go to C Street and say, ‘I need more information. I need this investigated.' Your staff will know what to do?" Miller asked.

"Yeah, they'll look into the system and do research and give them printouts," Babers said.

Since this series on D.C.'s old parking tickets has been airing, we've gotten many calls and emails from viewers in the same mess asking for advice. 

First, if you're not guilty, do not pay. The DMV considers payment an admission of guilt. That's why the Britts -- who paid the $4,000 to get her license plate – are, seemingly, out of luck.

Second, if you have a defense, go to the DMV in person. The address is 301 C Street, Northwest.

Third, when you get there, tell the DMV information desk (in room 1157) that you need "research done" on the old tickets. Don't say you need "adjudication" -- that will get you nowhere. The DMV will then determine if you have legal options. 

Finally, if you live in Maryland or Virginia and your license gets suspended, ask the D.C. DMV for a list of your tickets. Check to see if the tickets are for parking infractions. Only moving violations can block your license renewal outside of the District.

The head of the DMV, Lucinda Babers, told FOX 5 that people can ask for research. We emailed Babers and asked if we could show this process on camera with someone who was trying it. Babers and her spokeswoman have not responded to FOX 5's repeated emails.

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