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D.C. ticket dismissed after blatant error

Tuesday - 5/7/2013, 7:19am  ET

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Jerry Long took this photo of a ticket for a 'failure to display current inspection sticker' that was placed directly next to his valid inspection sticker. (Courtesy Photo)

WASHINGTON - An erroneous ticket placed on a man's car in D.C. last month left him scratching his head -- especially since the error was stated on the ticket itself.

Jerry Long of Alexandria, Va., received the ticket April 2, 2013 at 12:07 p.m. on his Lexus SUV. A traffic control officer from the D.C. Department of Transportation issued the citation for "failure to display a current inspection sticker."

However, she placed the ticket on the windshield of Long's vehicle, next to the inspection sticker, which expires in March 2014. In the comment section of the citation, the officer even wrote: "Exp. March 2014 R3437967."

"Frankly I was a little confused, so I grabbed a nearby police officer and asked him about it," says Long. "He told me it was a bad break and that I would have to send stuff in."

Long says he sent in an online protest form along with the picture. He says he received no response, reply or even an acknowledgement.

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles website states that if a person does not receive an email acknowledgement after submitting an online appeal, "then that means that we did not receive your adjudication request, and you need to resubmit it online or submit it by mail or in-person."

The site also says a decision on the ticket will be mailed within six months, unless an account is set up that allows an email to be sent advising that a decision has been made.

But after hearing a previous Ticketbuster story, Long contacted WTOP. He included the photo he took to prove his innocence.

WTOP contacted DDOT to get an explanation about what happened.

"Clearly it was an error on the part of the traffic control officer," says DDOT Acting Associate Director Soumya Dey.

He wouldn't go into specifics about how the error was made, or why the error wasn't caught sooner, but said the agency regrets the mistake. DDOT contacted the D.C. DMV to dismiss the ticket on April 26.

"I'm sure it does happen from time to time, but we've tried to put a training program in place to minimize this sort of error," says Dey. "I understand that even if we write one ticket in error, for that person, it doesn't really matter. So our goal is a state where we write zero tickets in error."

But that doesn't satisfy Long.

"It utterly discourages me from going to see a client across town, only because I know that one out of every four or five times I will get a stupid ticket on my car that is wrong," he says. "It's incompetence and utter malfeasance."

Dey admits that once a ticket is written, it automatically goes straight to the DMV. While DDOT supervisors can void tickets, like in this case, those supervisors don't actively scan tickets to catch blatant errors.

Both Montgomery County in Maryland and Fairfax County in Virginia have supervisors to catch such errors and contract with Duncan Solutions in Milwaukee to help them identify and fix mistakes in quick order.

Long admits he's received legitimate tickets for expired meters when meetings ran long, and says he paid those tickets because he was wrong. But he says this isn't his first erroneous ticket, and he wants it to stop.

"My advice: Don't park on D.C. streets," he says.

If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case - along with documentation - to ticketbuster@wtop.com.

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