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Nearly identical plates causing major hassle for Virginia woman

Wednesday - 2/26/2014, 10:39am  ET

SOUTH RIDING, Va. -- A Northern Virginia woman has been hassled for months over two unpaid parking tickets issued to a car with nearly identical plates to hers.

Clare Pilkington's license plate is PICKLS and is registered to a Chevy Tahoe. The unpaid tickets were written for a Lexus with the license plate P1CKLS. A WTOP Ticketbuster investigation found the discrepancy and also revealed vastly different responses between Montgomery County and District of Columbia officials.

David Kiley, a D.C. police officer of the 2nd District, issued the first bad ticket last Sept. 25 for violating a "No Standing During AM or PM Rush" sign at 6:10 p.m. at 3400 Connecticut Ave. NW. The ticket lists the offending vehicle as a Lexus SUV. Pilkington first learned about the ticket on Nov. 6, when she received a notice of unsatisfied tickets in the mail.

"It was a little bit annoying, because they were charging me $100 for the fine and a $100 penalty, so a total of $200. But how can you be late about something you never got in the first place? I was angry," Pilkington says.

"First I tried to call the 866 number, 311 and the 202 number on the notice and you cannot get a human being on the phone. This would have been an easy fix, if I got someone on the phone. But you can't. It's just absurd."

Pilkington says she filed for online adjudication and wrote a short statement. She says she tried to attach her vehicle registration, but she couldn't find any place on the website to properly attach the document. Pilkington isn't the first person to complain to WTOP Ticketbuster about the online system called eTims, calling it hard to navigate and send all your information through. She mentioned the discrepancy and expected D.C. DMV would pull her Virginia driving record.

But on Jan. 6 of this year, D.C. DMV hearing examiner Alicia A. Roshell ruled against Pilkington. The D.C. DMV adjudicates all parking tickets in the District.

"Adudication Service Hearing Examiners review each piece of evidence and make decisions based upon your responses and applicable D.C. law. You were found liable for the infraction described above. According to DMV records, you were cited for violation of rush hour regulations. As the registered owner of the vehicle listed, you are being informed of the Hearing Examiner's decision," Roshell writes.

Pilkington appealed the decision to the DMV Traffic Adjudications Appeals Board (TAAB) and again told them it wasn't her car. She also contacted WTOP Ticketbuster. As we researched her case, Pilkington received a second ticket in Montgomery County. That ticket was written on Jan. 22, and she received an unpaid notice on Feb. 14. It also listed the vehicle as a Lexus SUV. At that point, Ticketbuster contacted the Virginia DMV to clarify the issue.

"Without providing any personal data, I can confirm for you that the PICKLS with an 'I' is registered to a Tahoe and the P1CKLS with the number one is registered to a Lexus. An important distinction for the entities researching this is the plate type, i.e. that PICKLS with an I is on a Virginia Tech Hokies plate," writes Virginia DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen.

Goheen sent the statement to WTOP Ticketbuster, Montgomery County and the D.C. DMV on Feb. 18. Within hours, Montgomery County parking officials contacted Pilkington and WTOP Ticketbuster.

"The citation to Pilkington has just been confirmed removed from the system. For our purposes, the citation was not dismissed. It was properly reassigned to the correct license plate in violation. After receiving the information you provided from the Virginia DMV, we requested our citation management contractor to assign the original citation using the correct license plate of P1CKLS, Virginia tags. Once that was done, the Pilkington's assignment record was automatically removed. It is no longer in our system," writes Eduardo Mondonedo, chief of the Parking Operations Section at the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

"I do regret our enforcement officer made the mistake in entering the license plate. The officer has been notified and written up for not recording plates thoroughly and accurately."

Mondonedo's supervisor, Rick Siebert, also contacted WTOP to express his regret and asked WTOP to apologize to Pilkington.

However, the D.C. DMV refused to re-open Pikington's case, although the agency received both the Virginia DMV statement and Montgomery County's response.

"Please inform your listeners that they should provide D.C. DMV with all of the supporting documentation when they submit their request for adjudication. If a customer decides to appeal a ticket, then only the original information submitted will be considered," writes D.C. DMV spokesperson Vanessa Newton.

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