ARLINGTON, Va. - A retired Air Force veteran who has fought an erroneous parking ticket for more than a year now wants D.C. prosecutors to charge the ticket writer and the Department of Motor Vehicles with crimes.
Walter Edwards, of Arlington, tells WTOP that although the D.C. DMV dismissed his ticket in early October, he believes crimes were committed and those responsible for his ordeal need to be investigated.
"I believe that pressing this is important. It doesn't matter to me personally since my ticket has been dismissed, but I think the issue is much larger than me. I think ticket writers and the DMV are preying upon the public in order to ensure revenue to the District and it's not right," he says.
Edwards first learned about the January ticket early in March 2013 when he received a Notice of Unsatisfied Tickets from the D.C. DMV alleging he owed $200. The license plate was correct, the make of the car was correct, but it misidentified the expiration date, number of doors on the vehicle and the color.
DDOT traffic control officer Dimitri Dyson wrote the ticket, according to records. The Department of Transportation writes about 15 percent of the tickets in the District of Columbia, with the Department of Public Works writing the rest.
"There is a D.C. government statement on the bottom of the ticket that says the officer swears to it under the penalty of perjury. When he got the information about the car wrong, he committed a crime," says Edwards.
Immediately, he appealed the ticket to the DMV, sending them information including his vehicle registration, pictures of the car and the license plate showing the expiration date. Still the DMV found him liable and he had to pay $200.
Ultimately, Edwards went to WUSA9 and, shortly before the story was broadcast, the DMV reversed course and dismissed the citation. The DMV told Edwards that he proved that the cited vehicle wasn't his.
"Up until the time I gave the DMV all the information that made it irrefutable that the ticket was not mine, I can understand it was simply incompetence. But from the point in time, they had all the information that a fifth grader would need, when they continued to pursue me for the $200, that was criminal," says Edwards.
"They did it through the mail and I will report it to the US Postal Service. They did it by email and I will report it to the FBI."
Edwards says he believes the harassment amounts to criminal blackmail, mail fraud and wire fraud. But he admits that it'll be difficult to prove it.
"This is not about the $200. I could've easily paid it and gotten it off my plate. But they really got to me on this. So I think we have criminal activity, although probably not intentionally criminal activity. But when the DMV continued to pursue me after they knew they had no case, that was a crime," he says.
"It's my obligation to report [it] as a crime, as I see it. It's up to the a prosecutor to determine whether or not in fact it's a crime. But I am retired, so I intend to pursue each of the criminal charges to the end of wherever it may lead."
He thinks his case is just one of many examples of a broken system in the District government.
"It's all about the money. Ticket writers are given free range to write tickets for as many vehicles as possible. I think the DMV Adjudication Services are under strict orders that only under the most dire circumstances will a ticket get dismissed. The D.C. government is bringing in millions from Maryland and Virginia drivers because most of us are going to just pay it," says Edwards.
"It takes months of our time to fight it, causing us endless stress. They're not looking out for anything other than the collection of the money and they don't care who they hurt."
According to public records obtained by WTOP and AAA Mid-Atlantic earlier this year, 71.3 percent of D.C. parking tickets in 2012 went to Maryland and Virginia drivers. However, the records also show that the DMV dismissed almost 50 percent of the tickets adjudicated in District.
"I'm an engineer. I'm into solving problems. I've spent a career identifying solutions to problems. This is something that has grabbed me as a problem that needs to be solved," says Edwards.
He says he hopes a criminal investigation would lead to better training for ticket writers at the DPW and DDOT and more serious sanctions for those writing inaccurate tickets.
"This problem can be solved by the D.C. Council. It can solved by the DDOT Director [Terry Bellamy] and the DPW Director [William Howland]. It can be solved by the the DMV Director [Lucinda Babers]. It can be solved in a week, if they wanted to do it. I want to see how many years it'll take."
Edwards, who has followed WTOP TicketBuster since the beginning, says he has a message for D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh.
"She told WTOP that the DMV seems to be working fairly well and the percentage of these instances are fairly low," referring to a story in April. "The message I'd have for Councilmember Cheh is for those of us that are victims, the instances are 100 percent. The system is corrupt."
DMV General Counsel David Glasser and DDOT General Counsel Nana Bailey did not respond to WTOP for comment on the story.
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