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Ticket error blocks Md. woman from renewing registration

Thursday - 9/26/2013, 4:33am  ET

citationmd.jpg
The first image shows a receipt for Ilsa Bohn's paid citation on July 8. But the second image shows that on Aug. 8 she was denied registration renewal for her car because the system listed it as unpaid. (Courtesy of Ilsa Bohn)

GAITHERSBURG, Md. - When most pay a speed camera ticket, they expect everything is done and the case is closed. But one Maryland woman found she couldn't re-register a car more than a month after paying her ticket and came to WTOP TicketBuster for help.

Ilsa Bohn of Montgomery Village received the ticket on April 10, 2013 for going 37 in a 25 mph zone at 300 N. Summit Ave. in Gaithersburg. She challenged the ticket in court but lost the case on July 8. A judge ordered her to pay the $40 ticket, plus $22.50 in court costs.

"I went to the clerk, paid her in cash and then got a receipt. I assumed everything would be OK," says Bohn.

On Aug. 30, she tried to re-register her vehicle at the Motor Vehicle Administration (Maryland doesn't use term DMV) and couldn't. A flag appeared on her account saying, "Gaithersburg City Police issued - Speed Camera."

"It was frustrating. In fact, I was prevented from putting my car on the road for several days. At this point, I became seriously concerned, more than frustrated. Seriously frustrated because on the notice it said the next step for alleged speed camera fine delinquencies was to report the offender to a national credit bureau," says Bohn.

"I was angry. I'm usually able to control my emotions, but I was pretty ticked off. I really felt like the bureaucracy had let me down. That I had been punished for exercising my right for going to court," she says.

Bohn contacted Ron Ely of the Maryland Drivers Alliance. Ely suggested Bohn contact WTOP and forwarded her information to TicketBuster. Bohn provided WTOP with the ticket, court date, receipt from the District Court of Maryland clerk and a registration flag notice.

We sent the information to the Gaithersburg City Police. Sgt. Scott Scarff, who oversees the speed camera program, immediately noticed their error and fixed the problem.

"When a case is heard in District Court, they send notice to Xerox, our vendor, and send a copy to us at the Gaithersburg Police Department. And upon proof from the court that the fine has been paid, we are to immediately go into the system to remove any flags or anything that may have been put there temporarily and it closes the matter," says Sgt. Scarff.

"In this case, the notice had been sent out, but it never was acknowledged by our vendor Xerox and those flags had not been removed, as they should have been. Immediately upon finding that out and getting the documents from WTOP, we removed the registration hold on her tags and issued a 'Flagged in Error' request to let the MVA know the error was ours," he says.

Within hours of our initial contact, Scarff sent the request to the MVA, which was immediately processed. Bohn was able to re-register her car the next morning.

"Within two days of contacting the Maryland Drivers Alliance and WTOP, I was able to get my vehicle renewed and back on the road. I am absolutely grateful that WTOP cleared this up, most importantly because it spared me the anguish of having to prove to Gaithersburg police that I wasn't a delinquent speed camera offender," says Bohn.

"We apologize, we sincerely are sorry that she had to go through this situation. We aim for perfection, and even though mistakes happen, we take each error very seriously," says Scarff.

Bohn still doesn't understand why her case fell through the cracks, but hopes changes will fix it.

"They know you're going to court, they know what date. They can put a marker on the calendar and then check with the District Court the next date to get the docket. Just check in the next date and see if they appeared in court," says Bohn.

Scarff agrees they can do a better job and changes are going to be made.

"Since Ms. Bohn's case, we have put another step in place where our customer service representative not only checks the docket and checks with Xerox, we have the ability to go into the system ourselves to make sure the registration hold is withdrawn and if a flag in error needs to be sent, it's sent. We're also taking the extra step to review those cases every 30 days to make sure it's taken care of," he says.

Bohn says while Scarff never called her personally, she appreciates his apology and efforts to fix the problem and address the cause.

"The integrity of our program is our most important job. We want our program to be transparent. We want our program to be fair and to represent one of the best in Maryland," says Scarff.

He also says anyone who has a question about their speed camera ticket or a potential error to contact them at 301-258-6400 and ask for Mr. Tabb in photo enforcement customer service.

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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