D.C. con­sid­ers nix­ing late fees for park­ing vi­o­la­tions

New pol­icy would only ap­ply to Dis­trict res­i­dents

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY RYAN M. MCDER­MOTT

Driv­ers who live in the Dis­trict could feel a lit­tle less pres­sure to pay their park­ing tick­ets as the D.C. Council con­sid­ers a mea­sure that would end late fees for such ci­ta­tions.

The leg­is­la­tion aims to give low­in­come res­i­dents more time to pay their tick­ets with­out hav­ing their fines dou­ble af­ter a month.

“The cur­rent penal­ties in place only serve to fur­ther bur­den those who lack eco­nomic means,” said council mem­ber Trayon White, the Ward 8 Demo­crat who in­tro­duced the bill.

The Traf­fic and Park­ing Ticket Penalty Amend­ment Act of 2017 would elim­i­nate late fees for park­ing and traf­fic ci­ta­tions for D.C. res­i­dents only. Driv­ers who live out­side the city would still see their un­paid fines dou­ble af­ter 30 days.

Red-light cam­era tick­ets cost $150 per vi­o­la­tion and speed cam­era tick­ets $300 each. Fail­ure to pay a ticket within 30 days is deemed an “ad­mis­sion of li­a­bil­ity” in the Dis­trict.

“For years, res­i­dents of my com­mu­nity have been dis­sat­is­fied with the tick­et­ing prac­tices of our lo­cal gov­ern­ment,” said Mr. White. “This is­sue is al­ways one of the top three con­cerns that I hear from my con­stituents as I move around Ward 8.”

Mr. White’s Facebook post about the leg­is­la­tion gar­nered more than 7,800 views and 350 shares within hours.

And it ap­pears that con­cern stretches across the city: Demo­cratic council mem­bers Jack Evans (Ward 2), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), Charles Allen (Ward 6), Anita Bonds (at-large) and Robert White (at-large),

and David Grosso (at-large in­de­pen­dent) signed on to sup­port the mea­sure.

City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Rashad Young de­clined to say whether he sup­ports the bill or how it would af­fect the city’s bud­get.

“The [chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer] will tell us when he does his [anal­y­sis],” Mr. Young said. “Then we can re­spond to what the cost im­pact would be based on that anal­y­sis.”

The city is­sued nearly $300 mil­lion worth of traf­fic and park­ing tick­ets last year. About 41 per­cent of those tick­ets went un­paid. It’s un­clear how much rev­enue the Dis­trict would lose from drop­ping late fees for city res­i­dents, but the fact that Mr. Evans, who chairs the Fi­nance and Rev­enue Com­mit­tee, has backed the mea­sure sug­gests the city

might be able to take the eco­nomic hit.

The cur­rent prac­tice of hefty fines af­ter 30 days cre­ates a “Catch-22” for D.C. mo­torists who can’t af­ford to pay tick­ets on time, says John Townsend, spokesman for the au­to­mo­bile club AAA Mid-At­lantic.

“The due date is short. De­pend­ing upon when the no­tice of in­frac­tion is mailed, some tick­eted mo­torists could have less than a week to come up with the money to pay the ticket, or even get a check to the city on time,” Mr. Townsend said, call­ing the Dis­trict’s fines dra­co­nian.

“The dou­bling of traf­fic fines af­ter a 30-day dead­line does not im­prove traf­fic safety or en­gen­der com­pli­ance with traf­fic laws one whit,” he said. “A

wealth of re­search shows that dra­co­nian traf­fic fines and fees act as a hid­den tax on poor peo­ple.”

Miss­ing the dead­line to pay a ticket can prompt the sus­pen­sion of driver’s li­censes and calls from debt col­lec­tors, which can greatly af­fect other parts of a per­son’s life, Mr. Townsend said.

But city driv­ers wouldn’t be off the hook un­der the leg­is­la­tion: Un­paid tick­ets are re­ported to credit bu­reaus, and can be de­ducted from in­come tax re­funds. And a driver’s li­cense can­not be re­newed un­less all fines are paid in full.

The Dis­trict wouldn’t be the first ju­ris­dic­tion in the area to elim­i­nate late fees on park­ing and traf­fic ci­ta­tions. Mont­gomery County no longer charges a $25 late fee for its $40 speed-cam­era tick­ets and $75 red-light cam­era tick­ets.

Mean­while, Bal­ti­more County charges a late fee of $10 per month for any vi­o­la­tion not paid within 15 days of is­suance.

Late fees abound in cities across the coun­try. In Los An­ge­les, park­ing tick­ets in the city av­er­age about $68 and fines dou­ble af­ter 21 days. New Or­leans tacks a $100 fine onto un­paid tick­ets.

In Mi­ami, a late fee is added to a ticket’s cost if the fine is not paid within 30 days, but a spe­cific dol­lar amount is not spec­i­fied. And in Chicago, a late fee “that can be equal to the orig­i­nal fine amount” may be as­sessed if pay­ment is not re­ceived by the “pay by” date on the ticket.

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