As those of you who read this are undoubtedly aware, I was issued a ticket by DC parking enforcement in April for “failing to register in DC”. In order to fight the ticket, I had to supply them with a copy of my lease along with a utility bill and a copy of my registration. Their need for that last document is puzzling, as one of the implications of the ticket is surely that I have valid registration in another state. Mind you, I’m not sure why that’s surprising at this point as the entire premise of the ticket is absurd. Yes, I have out-of-state plates. The population of the District quadruples during business hours, so I doubt that DCPE finds out-of-state plates to be unusual. Yes, I do spend 3-4 hours a week in Petworth. By any reasonable metric a fraction of time that small doesn’t even approach proof of residency, but DCPE doesn’t care about reason, they care about revenue.
I might post more about that later. Well, I probably will post about it the next time I get a ticket. For now, let me return to the matter at hand.
I sent in all of the documentation that they requested, only to find out, four months later, that I also needed to provide my registration and that failure to do so would result in a demand for full payment of the $100 citation. The notice was dated 8/9/13 and it gave me 10 days to fulfill the above requirement, however, I didn’t find it in my mailbox until last Friday, the 16th. I called their office to ask whether I needed to send everything and was told “No, just fax your registration, and be sure to reference the ticket number. When the fax line was busy both times I tried to send the fax, I called again and was told “The only way we can accept a fax is if you’re here to pick it up, but you can come in and bring your documents with you.”
I expressed concern about the 10-day time limit, given that I had only one business day left, or really, one business day total, in which to get them my registration. The person with whom I spoke told me that I’d be ok, unless I parked in DC and someone issued me a(nother) ticket.
After all of that, clearing this mess up was surprisingly painless. I walked in and handed a clerk a stack of paperwork. In return, he gave me a receipt for my paperwork, and confirmation that my car had a ROSA (registration of out-of-state automobiles) exemption, which means that they’ll assume I’m not a DC resident for a year, at which point I’m fair game again.
Now, it really isn’t much trouble to get the exemption, but the idea of having to do it at all is troubling. I’ve been under the assumption that someone couldn’t find a parking space in my friends’ neighborhood and called parking enforcement. It seems unlikely that DCPE actually bothers to keep track of when a given car with VA, or MD, or what-have-you registration parks in a given location, unless that car is parked illegally. I didn’t have this problem in my girlfriend’s neighborhood and I’ve parked there for days at a time. Furthermore, DCPE is much more visible in that area of DC than it is in the area in which I got the ticket. I would also like to point out that I’ve had a schedule that included 3-4 hours every Sunday in the same part of DC for a couple of years now, and this is the first ticket of its type I’ve seen. So great, I’m at the mercy of someone who’s had a bad day.
I suppose the most irritating aspect of this whole experience is that it’s cheaper and more convenient to register a car in DC, if one lives in DC, than it is to keep a Virginia registration. It costs $40.75 to register in VA, as opposed to $72 in DC, but VA levies a personal property tax on vehicles, which in my case is about $200 (I remember being upset about that when I moved out here from California, but as it turns out, the costs are about equal. California adds a vehicle licensing fee in lieu of personal property tax). In addition to the reduced costs, DC insists that cars be registered to a particular parking zone. If a car is parked in the wrong zone, it can only remain there for two hours, before it becomes ticketable. I used to get parking tickets all the time when I lived in DC, because I didn’t want to pay a special fee to park in front of the house I’d purchased, until I discovered that the fee is (or was) $15. So yeah, it’s about 1/3 as expensive to register in DC and not have to worry about exceeding parking time limits. Why would anyone, unless they didn’t have registration to begin with (which is an entirely different issue), go through the hassle of having out-of-state plates in DC?