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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
C: (202) 253-2171
jtownsend@aaamidatlantic.com

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Thursday, May 27, 2021) –– “Party over, oops out of time.” What was once colorfully dubbed the “pandemic-induced reprieve in parking enforcement” in the District ends as the clock strikes midnight next Tuesday.  Parking enforcement resumes in the nation’s capital in the wee hours of the first day of June. A month later on July 1 the District will regain its well-earned sobriquet “Boot Hill,” some say, as booting restarts in the nation’s capital.

For motorists with old parking and traffic ticket debt there is even better news. Come Tuesday, June 1, the District government is also launching a four-month ticket amnesty program. It will give ticket scofflaws, who are in arrears to the city for hundreds of millions of dollars, an opportunity to pay their ticket debts.

Now they have a chance to wipe the slate clean. It seems hundreds of thousands of motorists are on the hook and on the lam for more than $400 million in unpaid parking tickets, overdue photo citation fines and fees, and outstanding payments for moving violation citations that were issued in and by Washington, D.C.

“Motorists are overwhelmed by a ticket debt crisis imposed by the District. It is a ticket debt burden as towering as Mount Everest, and just as challenging as scaling its notorious summit. Yet this ticket amnesty program is warranted. It gives delinquent motorists an incentive to pay older, outstanding tickets. Over the course of just three complete budget cycles, motorists accumulated a mountain of debt – approximately $435,059,098 in unpaid parking and traffic tickets,” explained John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.

“Motorists skipped out on paying 2,655,158 parking and traffic tickets in FY 2018, FY 2019 and FY 2020. That sum includes 871,453 tickets that went unpaid in FY 2018 alone, as motorists racked up $139,291,885 in overdue ticket debt in a span of 12 months.”

UNPAID TICKET DEBT IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Unpaid Citations

FY 2019

FY 2020

FY 2021 (as of 12/31/20)

Number of Unpaid Tickets

971,913

811,792

231,244

Value of Unpaid Citations

$177,387,958

$118,379,255

$26,872,524

District Residents Unpaid Tickets And Value of Fines Owed:

208,897

$34,364,288

165,454

$22,409,102

51,028

$5,661,809

Maryland Residents Unpaid Tickets And Value of Fines Owed

389,146

$74,298,443

329,327

$49,409,264

96,082

$11,209,390

Virginia Residents Unpaid Tickets And Value of Fines Owed:

246,723

$44,745,936

218,601

$32,035,005

54,781

$6,513,352

Residents of Other Places Unpaid Tickets and Value of Fines Owed:

127,147

$23,979,291

98,410

$14,525,884

29,353

$3,487,973

 

Motorists with old ticket debt are urged to take advantage of the first ticket amnesty program in the District in 11 years or since 2012. Peradventure, they will.

More than a quarter of a billion dollars in traffic and parking tickets – valued at $295,767,213 - went unpaid in the District during Fiscal Year 2019, when 971,913 motorists defaulted on paying the tickets they incurred; and in Fiscal Year 2020, as motorists failed to pay 811,792 outstanding tickets. Motorists failed to pay $177,387,958 in outstanding tickets in 2019, on top of the $118,379,255 left unpaid in FY 2020.

In the wake of the economic upheaval experienced during the pandemic and the emotional anxiety exacted in the shadows of COVID-19 – stress, fear, isolation, worry about loss of income  - the District’s ticket amnesty program gives delinquent motorists an incentive to pay older, outstanding tickets. The District’s Ticket Amnesty program will run from June 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021, the end of the city’s current fiscal year. The Ticket Amnesty program includes tickets issued before September 30, 2021.

Maryland ticket scofflaws racked up a staggering $123,707,707 in outstanding ticket debt to the District’s coffers in FY 2019 and FY 2020. Maryland motorists incurred the most tickets, and they sidestepped the most ticket debt in both FY 2019 and FY 2020. Maryland residents defaulted on 389,146 payable parking and traffic tickets in FY 2019, worth $74,298,443.

Although tickets were slapped on their windshields or mailed to their addresses, 329,327 registered vehicle owners residing in Maryland levanted in paying hundreds of thousands of tickets, assessed at $49.4 million in fines and fees during FY 2020. Maryland drivers absconded to their domiciles to escape paying $59,662,386 in outstanding District ticket debt in FY 2018.

In arrears, Virginia drivers owed the District north of $76 million in ticket debt incurred both in FY 2019 and FY 2020. Licensed drivers from Virginia dodged paying 246,723 parking and traffic tickets worth $44,745,936 in FY 2019. During the following budget year, 218,601 vehicle owners from Virginia skipped out on paying hundreds of thousands of traffic tickets and parking citations, valued at $32,035,005.

Virginia residents ran away from paying nearly a half million tickets - 465,324 citations, to be exact - while running up their indebtedness to the District. They stockpiled an estimated $76,780,941 in outstanding parking tickets and automated traffic enforcement (ATE) program ticket debt in FY 2019 and FY 2020. That sum does not include the $31,512,322 Virginia drivers and loafers piled up in unsettled ticket debts during FY 2018 alone.

District residents amassed $56,773,390 in unpaid and outstanding ticket fines and fees in Fiscal Year 2019 and Fiscal Year 2020. District dwellers were delinquent in paying $34,364,288 in ticket debts in FY 2019. They failed to pony up $22,409,102 in outstanding ticket fines and fees in FY 2019. City residents also ducked forking over $28,615,543 in parking and traffic ticket debt in Fiscal Year 2018.

Drivers from other jurisdictions beyond the District, Maryland and Virginia racked up 225,557 unpaid tickets in FY 2019 and FY 2020. Those unpaid citations carried a face value of $38,505,175 in fines and fees. Out-of-towners also shunned paying the $19,491,634 they owed in outstanding ticket debt in FY 2018.

During this four-month window, motorists must still pay “any original ticket amount, however, any penalties will be waived.” Historically, the District’s last ticket amnesty program ended in 2012. Although indebted drivers and ticket scofflaws owed the District more than $233,676,427 at that time, the District had only collected a fraction of that amount – $3.5 million – under the previous ticket amnesty program.

Ticket debt burdens ‘families near the bottom of the wealth distribution,’ research reveals. This new Ticket Amnesty program is a sorely needed path forward, in terms of administering social justice,” said Townsend.

“This  debt  robs lower income motorists of the financial wherewithal and the incentive to pay their overdue tickets. The COVID-19 pandemic exacted a heavy human cost and levied an economic hardship on many people. The ticket amnesty program can provide financial relief to tens of thousands of people.”

 

Citation Category

FY 2019

FY 2020

FY 2021

(through 12/31/20)

Parking Citations

1,467,876

837,899

59,690

Photo Citations

1,310,740

1,306,689

340,683

Moving Violations

91,194

53,929

9,237

 

In August 2020, Tzedek DC, and its allies, called upon the District Council for permanent debt collection reforms in the wake of COVID-19.  Citing a 2019 study by the Urban Institute, Tzedek DC noted: “The average person with a debt in collections in DC - even pre-emergency - had over $1,200 of debt subject to collection, and over 43% of people in communities of color have a debt in collections, more than quadruple the rate in white communities.”

Tzedek DC says it previously “won population-level relief through systemic reforms to end the suspension of driver’s licenses as punishment for unpaid debts.”

What is more, as Mayor Bowser also announced: “Beginning June 1, the District will restart several government functions— such as all parking enforcement, towing of illegally parked vehicles, and requirements to renew vehicle registrations and inspections— that had been suspended during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.”

As a result of the suspension of parking enforcement in the District, the number of tickets issued by parking control officers plummeted about 43 percent, from 1.4 million parking infractions in FY19, to 838,000 such citations in FY20. Parking ticketing begins anew Tuesday, including citations meted out for expired meter violations, and for expired residential parking permits.

The District will once more issue tickets for violations such as expired District license plates and expired inspection tickets. Come Tuesday, the city will re-launch its street sweeping enforcement program – SWEEP. Illegally parked vehicles in the city will be towed once again.  

“Parking, photo, and/or minor moving violation tickets issued after June 1 will be subject to adjudication hearing timelines listed on the back of the ticket.” Plus on that date, “vehicles must display valid DC registration and inspection stickers.” Other changes are coming too, including “new tiered residential parking permit fees.”

The Bowser Administration announced starting the first of the July, the District will once again start booting vehicles with two or more unsatisfied tickets that are 60 days old. Also on July 1, all persons with a valid Washington, D.C. driver’s license, and ID card holders must once again display a valid credential.

Total Citations

FY 2019

FY 2020

FY 2021

(thru 12/31/20)

Total Citations Processed

2,869,810

2,198,517

409,610

Value ofProcessed Tickets

$375,916,124

$261,825,852

$46,414,297

                                                                    

In the cosmic scheme of things, the District issued approximately $1.261 billion in traffic and parking tickets, over the span of four fiscal years, in FY 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined. Like the District, many municipalities across the United States, from San Francisco to Erie, Pennsylvania, “suspended some or all parking enforcement because of COVID-19 concerns.” With the rollout of the vaccine, parking enforcement is resuming in many cities.

The District launched a ticket amnesty program during the late summer of 2011. That program ran from August 1, 2011 through January 27, 2012. During that time motorists with open parking tickets, citations for moving violations and photo-enforcement tickets issued before January 1, 2010 qualified for the ticket amnesty program. In 2011, the value of “4 million outstanding tickets eligible under the city’s ticket amnesty program totaled $245.7 million.”

Back then, eligible motorists only paid a mere pittance, some $3.1 million, of the mountain of unpaid ticket debt by the day before the program ended. The city subsequently collected an additional $400,000 in outstanding ticket indebtedness from scofflaws on the final day of the program.

Looking farther back, the District government previously offered a ticket amnesty program in 2001 for motorists who had accumulated large debts in the city due to unpaid parking and traffic tickets. During that time, the city only recovered about $6 million in unpaid fines from motorists who owned up to their tickets.

More information on the newest District Ticket Amnesty Program can be found at ticketamnesty.dc.gov    

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