Ari Ashe, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - A federal employee tells WTOP that he's been fighting the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles over what he calls a "bogus" parking ticket for a year and a half.
John R. Stanton, who has worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 22 years, received the ticket for an infraction that reportedly occurred in the 700 block of Maryland Avenue NE on July 11, 2011. But Stanton claims he was on official government business in Arizona and his car was parked at Dulles International Airport on that day.
Stanton provided WTOP with documents to support his claim -- including official government orders -- along with receipts from the hotel, airline and parking garage at Dulles. All documents show Stanton left July 7 and returned July 14.
"Not only have I never been to that part of D.C., but I could not have physically been in that part of town, on that date, at that time, because I was in the air on a plane," Stanton says. "Clearly, someone made a mistake."
He learned about the ticket when the D.C. DMV sent him a second notice of violation on Aug. 17. The original $30 ticket was doubled to $60.
Stanton sent a letter to the DMV on Sept. 17 explaining why it could not have been his car; he included all of his evidence with the letter.
"I asked them for the first notice, the citation you get on the windshield. I wanted to see that because it would allow me to see who the citing officer was," Stanton says. "At no point was I even given a reply by the Department of Motor Vehicles. No one ever said, 'We have received your letter, we're looking into it.'"
The DMV sent Stanton a notice on May 25, 2012, saying that he was found guilty. He was never allowed to see the evidence against him, he was not allowed to confront his accuser and he was not issued a trial date.
Lucinda Babers, director of the D.C. DMV, says this is because it took Stanton more than 60 days to respond to the ticket.
"Since the adjudication letter was submitted more than 60 days after the ticket was issued, the hearing examiner treated it like a Motion to Vacate Default Judgment and reviewed it for a determination of why the adjudication request was not submitted timely," Babers says.
"Since there was no information to support why the adjudication letter was not timely, and there was no evidence related to the basis of the ticket, the Motion to Vacate was denied and the ticket was upheld as liable."
Stanton admits he responded 66 days after the July 11 ticket, which states, "If you fail to answer a notice of infraction within 60 calendar days of the date it was issued, you are deemed to have admitted the commission of the infraction and are no longer eligible for a hearing."
He argues that the clock should have started on Aug. 17 -- the day he says he found out about the ticket -- not on July 11, when the ticket was issued.
However, if he responded in time, the DMV still would have denied his appeal.
"Mr. Stanton's inclusion of documentation related to where he was at the time the ticket (was issued) (is) not sufficient evidence related to where the vehicle was at the time the ticket was written," Babers says.
Stanton says he found his Mercedes in the same spot where he parked it. Therefore, he claims the only way it would have gotten the parking ticket is if someone stole it, drove to Northeast D.C. and then returned the car to the exact same spot at Dulles.
"When presented with airline receipts, hotel receipts and parking garage receipts, any reasonable hearing officer would conclude there must have been some sort of mistake," Stanton says.
Since last May, Stanton started receiving monthly collection notices, which he refuses to pay.
On Friday, the DMV agreed to reopen his case and re-evaluate the evidence after WTOP informed the agency about the upcoming story.
Stanton says he wanted to share his story because he thinks he is not the only victim of a "bogus" D.C. parking ticket.
"The only plausible way a parking ticket can be issued on a car that was absolutely not in the location where the District of Columbia says it was is if it was deliberately and falsely written as a source of revenue," Stanton says.
"Most people would not be able to prove on any given day that a parking infraction occurs where exactly they were. It's rare that the average driver has a sheaf of documentation like I did showing I could not have been at the location of the parking ticket."
When asked whether he thinks D.C. parking officials issue parking tickets at random, Stanton said his case shows they do. He points to the fact that 10.6 percent of drivers who receive parking tickets in D.C. challenge them.
Among challenged tickets, half are dismissed.
"What if 10 percent of them were fraudulent? That represents a certain fleecing of the citizens parking in the city," Stanton says. "The larger issue is that holding District officials accountable is important. Maybe someone will start to pay attention and see this disturbing trend."
The DMV did not respond to requests for comment about Stanton's charges.
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