Nearly three-fifths of motorists who challenged their D.C. traffic tickets beat city hall and another two-fifths beat back parking tickets in challenges, records obtained by the Washington Examiner show.
Another 38 percent of people who fought tickets from photo radar machines won, the District Department of Motor Vehicles reported in its fiscal 2010 "Performance Plan." Even when people lost their initial challenge, 1 out of 3 were able to reverse the tickets on appeal.
Who says you can't fight city hall?
"These numbers are so staggering to me," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend, whose agency unearthed the performance plan. "Something is wrong with the system."
Overall, the city issued some 2.4 million tickets in fiscal 2009. Few people bothered to challenge them. Only 3 percent of photo tickets were "adjudicated" in fiscal 2009. Another 7 percent of parking tickets were challenged and 20 percent of moving violations were challenged, records show.
Those who fought had a big winning percentage. Nearly 70,000 tickets were scotched because of a direct challenge or from an appeal to the challenge, the records show. Even if every ticket was worth only the minimum --$15 -- it represents some $1.05 million in lost revenue.
Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, said she'd like an explanation.
"It's really important for us to get this right -- not only to recover the revenue," she said. "But also because nothing irks a resident more than when they get a ticket that's and it forces them to go through the rigmarole to contest it."
Mayor Adrian Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson was asked why such a large percentage of ticket challenges were successful, but she was unable to provide a response by deadline Monday night.
Hill staffer Brandon Dillard and others fought to change the parking regulations in his Eckington neighborhood for years. He said he understands the need to keep traffic moving and the streets clean, but "I think the people who live in the District of Columbia are overtaxed."
"The tickets, [city officials] see as a revenue-producer they don't want to get rid of them. Unless it's their cars," he said, referring to a city auditor's report that found that cars assigned to Fenty's and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's offices owed more than $1,000 in unpaid tickets.
firstname.lastname@example.org Fighting city hall (and winning)
Number of challenged tickets percent of challenges won by drivers
22,693 moving violations 58 percent
117,656 parking tickets 41 percent
20,251 photo tickets 37 percent
2,211 appeals from lost challenges 33 percent
Source: D.C. DMV, "FY10 Performance Plan"