Appealing traffic tickets in D.C. takes 2 years

DC,Transportation,Liz Essley

Got a traffic ticket in D.C. and want to fight it? Be patient. It could take two-and-a-half years.

Drivers who contest tickets wait an average of 132 days just to get a response from District officials, according to District Department of Motor Vehicles Director Lucinda Babers. If DMV refuses to dismiss the ticket, an appeal will take an average of more than two years.

“Do you think that’s a reasonable time period?” council member and transportation committee chairwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, asked Babers during a hearing last week. “Can’t we do it faster?”

The short answer: No, not yet.

Babers said the 132 days — just over four months — was “reasonable with our current workload and our current resources.”

She likened the delay to those experienced by drivers in Chicago and New York — cities six to 14 times the size of the District.

Babers did not think the District should “throw money” at the problem just to speed up the 132-day process.

But she did think two years was too long to wait for an appeal. “I do not think that is reasonable,” she told Cheh. The appeals board should only need a year, she said.

DMV now has two boards that handle ticket appeals. But both have backlogs, so the department is setting up a third.

To speed up the initial 132-day adjudication, DMV officials are considering starting a program this year under which local law students would hear ticket cases.

Patience is a valuable tool when navigating the DMV. Babers noted that the city’s three customer service centers are flooded, with an average wait time now about 40 minutes for services that include vehicle registration and driver’s licenses.

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