Mr. Smith Goes To Traffic Court: Washington Racks Up $1 Billion In Traffic and Parking Tickets

It appears that the sequel to “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” would be Mr. Smith goes to Washington’s traffic court” . . . everyone else is. I have long written about how cities are abusing their citizens with short red-light cameras and other techniques to generate revenue through parking and speeding fines. It is a way to avoid having to raise taxes but effectively holding up citizens and then blaming them. No city however has shown the utter abandon as D.C. which raked up $1 billion in such fines in just three years.

Such predatory practices are highly regressive for the poor. As we have discussed, half of the country has no savings and lives pay check to pay check. D.C. however hits such struggling families with onerous tickets so that the city council can maintain spending without increasing taxes even further.

long been considered one of the most onerous places in the country for traffic fines, seeing a steady climb year to year in tickets issued and revenue generated. But recently the District broke into stunning new territory, issuing more than $1 billion in tickets in just three years.

John Townsend, Public Relations Manager of AAA Mid-Atlantic, is quoted as saying. “I don’t know another local jurisdiction in the entire nation that has generated as much money from traffic tickets, parking tickets and moving violations. That tells us that things are out of control and out of hand in the District of Columbia.” Keep in mind, D.C. only has around 700,000 residents.

D.C. had the highest traffic fines per capita at $170 per person. Not surprisingly, the second highest city is Chicago, which was the subject of any earlier column and my home town. Chicago is at $101.

Everyone who lives in D.C. seems to have stories of the aggressive ticketing and exceedingly high fines. Yet, it represents a windfall for the City Counsel members who already have the city ranking in the top 25 cities for tax burden (Chicago is near the top). It is obviously a stealth tax. However, what is most striking is how regressive it is for the poor and middle class who have marginal incomes wiped out by these tickets. Politicians do not have to face such questions because they blame the conduct of the drivers without dealing with the fact that it is not just the number but the amount of such tickets.

31 thoughts on “Mr. Smith Goes To Traffic Court: Washington Racks Up $1 Billion In Traffic and Parking Tickets”

  1. The state of Louisiana once passed a law prohibiting how much of its budget a town could collect in court costs and fines, because of the abusive speed trap racket in little towns such as Golden Meadow situated on the state’s longest highway, LA1.

    Since then, however, it seems the state legislature has slackened off considerably, and local sheriffs and police chiefs are under pressure from mayors and parish presidents to balance city books on the backs of motorists driving through their jurisdictions.

  2. Government is abusing its citizens only because the people are not part of their government and are not represented in their government.

    The most important principle of republican government is the assembly of the people in their collective capacity. An assembly which hasn’t been formed for over 150 years in any State or in the Federal Government.

    Without the assembly of the people in their collective capacity we are in direct violation of Article 4 Section 4 of the United States Constitution which guarantees every State in the Union a republican form of government, and you cannot form a compound republic, which the United States is, without each constituent part being a republic themselves, meaning every State must also assemble the people of their State in their collective capacity.

    I do understand that the majority of Americans today don’t have a clue what the Union is or what the people in their collective capacity means, but we better refresh our recollection of these concepts before we loos our government and our society right along with it.

    The clock is ticking!

  3. If you can show your car became inoperable, you are not ticketed based on its stoppage.

    Had a car battery go dead when I was parked on a D.C. street. Had to spend an hour or two to get a new battery which I put in and got the car back home — but not before it got a ticket for going past time where it was parked.

    I took my bill for the new battery to traffic court showing that I purchased it on the same day as the ticket. Judge told me the linkage was not clear to him.

    1. One of my last weeks living in D.C., I parked on a street that had signs for parking of I think 2 hours, but the meters had been ripped out bc they were going to install a payment machine with printed tickets for the entire row, but it wasn’t installed yet.

      Okay, so I walked up and down the block looking into ppl’s windshield and not even a single person had a ticket for payment; this, everyone was parking for free.

      But I’m precautious, so I took photos.

      When I get back to my car, I am the ONLY car with a ticket for non-payment. No b.s.

      You cannot even make this up!

      I then proceeded to walk up and down the block AGAIN, taking photos of how Not even a Single car had a ticket, but mine did.

      So, I went to D.C. traffic/oarking court, which is a rinky dinky room in the back of the DMV. I brought an envelope with ALL my photo evidence.

      I swear in at the table. And I start talking and the admin goes, “Hold On…”. So, I’m holding… And he says, ” Yeah, technical error, the parking guy forgot to write Block, so you’re dismissed on a technicality.”

      I’m like, “What about my photos?” He is like, “There is a trash over there.” You don’t have to pay it regardless…


      Did not even get to the point where I showed how My car was the Only one with a ticket on it.

      But hey, at least I didn’t have to pay it.

      1. I also recommend taking the subway in D.C. I personally didn’t after I had some light fluid fall on my hair and drip down my face….the light above me. I’m like wow, it’s leaking, is my hair going to fall out? I guess I better get off and turn around and go home.

        I also got some rash on my legs from sitting on the seats on the metro. So, make sure you have your bus pants, so you don’t have giant hive looking Staph on your legs…or you could stand, I recommend standing the entire time…

        …also had some guy act very strange with me on the subway..and I won’t even go into that, nothing happened, thank God…lol…Im saying take the subway/metro, and then here are all the reasons not to….hahaha….

        But taking cars in and out of D.C. is not fun…

  4. Highly regressive for sure with this high tech speed trap. That average fine per person is way too high. If the system stays, the fines have to reflect cost of living.

  5. While in the Merchant Marine we often stopped quite near to Washington DC. I never went there and this article states one of the reasons. It’s not known for it’s ability to protect residents or visitors from crime.

    1. I know in the 60’s at least that USAF officers visiting DC for Pentagon briefings were advised to jog from and back to their cars in DC, at least at night.

  6. Oh come on. It’s not about revenue it’s all about Public $afety! Pay your fines and move along, citizen.

  7. It’s no longer a government of the people by the people and for the people. It’s them and us

    1. SF Bay Area went there in the 70s and never came back. And after they gouge the citizenry they turn around and don’t even provide you the service–look up what Oakland did to the young people at the “Ghost Ship” fire. Everybody at the fire dept makes $100K+
      and they don’t even do their jobs. (the Chief was making $330K; they just fired the Chief of Police for trying to do her job.)

      Over in SF they allow anarchy to prevail so the gun that was used to shoot and kill Kate Steinle was stolen in an auto-break-in in an area where that is so pervasive the “Inside Edition” program went there to (successfully) capture a “live” auto burglary only to find upon return to their van and discover IT was broken into. After the local law conspired to get the 5-times-deported criminal alien who shot Kate absolved of all guilt, the courts ruled that the family could not sue SF for releasing the illegal immigrant/repeat offender nor could they sue the imbecile FEDERAL law enforcement authority who left his/her firearm on the seat of the car.

  8. D.C. is corrupt and inept. Its schools are appalling. Yet it wants statehood, which would mean another Maxine Waters-type elected to Congress. Solution? Return the land to Maryland, from whence it was taken. Maryland will always be Democrat, but currently has a Republican governor who would provide more effective leadership than any politician D.C. could ever produce.

    1. The optimal solution would be as follows:

      1. The retrocession of the territory to Maryland.

      2. The adoption of identical constitutional amendments by Maryland and Virginia, allowing the following.

      a. The allocation (contingent on periodic referenda, held at least once every 30 years) of legislative power within the state to two sets of legislatures. (i) a legislature in Richmond covering all but four counties in the state and the stand-alone municipalities those counties envelope (ii) a legislature in Annapolis covering 22 of the states 25 counties; (iii) legislatures for 3 counties in Maryland; and (iv) legislatures for four counties in Virginia, and the enveloped municipalities.

      b. Placing in abeyance the privileges and immunities specified in the state constitutions in question, but doing so only in the counties in which the writ of the legislatures in Annapolis and Richmond does not run. In lieu of these privileges and immunities, there would be a set specified in an inter-state compact.

      c. Negotiating an inter-state compact between Maryland and Virginia which would provide for a municipal corporation to govern the seven counties in question in lieu of an active state government in that zone. The privileges and immunities which could be asserted by residents of the zone would be specified in the compact. The compact would provide for a common legislature and would specify a very spare set of baseline powers for that legislature. The powers could then, per the terms of the compact, be augmented by a statute of common government. The statute would be constructed by a convocation of county legislatures which would meet biennially and proceed by weighted voting, so the various county legislatures would regulate the precise powers of the common legislature.

      3. Formally, the area north of the Potomac would be Maryland, and the area south would be Virginia. Elections to the U.S. Senate would encompass the whole area on each side of the river. The whole are subject to the compact would be represented by approx six congressional districts. The districts in question would be wholly on one side of the river or the other. Some might straddle the boundary of the area subject to the compact and the remainder of the state on each side. A convocation of legislative bodies on each side of the river, proceeding by weighted voting, would determine the course of the boundary of each straddling district.

      4. Ideally, constitutional amendments enacted in Virginia and enacted in Maryland would include provisions controlling compensation paid to public employees, provisions which would be incorporated into the compact.

        1. In your state of cognitive decline, you came to the conclusion that this reply was snappy and to the point.

  9. How else can a city pay exorbitant pensions for its government workers??? Traffic tickets are welfare for government workers, just like high property taxes. Just like student loans are welfare for mostly liberal white people.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  10. In one of my claims to fame, back in the 1970s, I proved parking tickets were illegal in Arizona. Then I called the major newspapers and told them to look up the case.
    However, the legislature then made them civil offenses rather than criminal. They threw most low level traffic offenses in with it.

  11. Washington, DC, used to have a finest subway system. What’s wrong with using it?

    1. D.C.’s Metro is highly used, in fact it is jam-packed during commute hours. But like any subway system, it doesn’t go everywhere and people need to use cars for those situations. Wealthier residents are likely to live in condos and not own cars, using metro and Uber. But D.C. has a vast population of poor people – blacks whose ancestors migrated up from the South as well as tons of legal and illegal immigrants who live in the outer reaches of the city and drive old junkers. That’s one of the side effects of immigration that nobody talks about. Go into any immigrant neighborhood around here and you will see house after house with five or more cars/trucks parked in front, in the driveway, on the lawn, anywhere that there is room. Multiple unrelated adults sharing the same house and all driving old pollution-spewing clunkers to their minimum-wage jobs. So the carbon-footprint of immigration is immense, yet we’re supposed to think that recycling our paper bags will offset this…yeah, right.

      1. The bus service around DC has a hopelessly complicated route system and schedule. They’ve stopped publishing schedules in hard copy (they were at one time posted at stops). At mid day, they might run once an hour in Alexandria, the buses themselves are empty, and the drivers are commonly passive-aggressive. That’s why people do not use the bloody bus service. I would wager It would be more cost effective if Virginia and Maryland sold debit cards analogous to SNAP cards so impecunious people could call Uber or call a taxi. IMO subsidizing urban transit is justifiable in a way subsidizing groceries isn’t. If we had sane public policy, the federal Food and Nutrition Service and all its works would be eliminated, and a modes proportion of the resources returned to private hands could be deployed by counties and multi-county authorities to these transit cards.

        You can reduce the traffic on limited access highways by making use of tolls to finance the maintenance of said roads. You can reduce the traffic on public roads by making use of motor fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to finance the maintenance of those roads. We have traffic clots in part because the cost of motor transportation is socialized. Quit socializing the cost and people will drive less.

        Note, you have no metropolitan authority in greater Washington to produce a scaffolding for land use planning or public works projects that might allow more efficient processing of traffic. We could construct one, but the federal government, the State of Maryland, and the Commonwealth of Virginia never get around to it.

      2. We have that in California too except they have new trucks and SUVs. Curiously an awful lot of them are obese and don’t appear to work at all. You can see legions of them waddling across the parking lot at Costco and Walmart. And they’re apparently going to vote for Bernie who has not said anything about what he wants to do to their trucks and SUVs.

        It’s a peculiar system, as long as you can keep your “verifiable” income below a threshold you get free healthcare and deep discounts on all your utilities. (large numbers simply drive uninsured even though they can get a discount on that too). Comcast has been in a quandary since they gave $10/month high-speed internet service as part of their “help the minorities” program which prompted quite a number to cancel their $100/month service so they could get the discount (it’s checked off through their kids’s school enrollment).

  12. “Those who itShay on courthouse steps.”
    If you are a DC victim, then fight back. Any way you can. Go to the courthouse and leave nails sticking up through small boards behind the judge’s car. He will get a flat.

    1. No need to use fines as a revenue source. Collect the fines in a holding fund and then empty the fund at the end of the year by cutting a check to each person on the property tax rolls. The same principle could apply to Pigou levies and vice levies. The social utility of fines, Pigou levies, and vice levies is to discourage certain types of behavior by requiring the parties to assume responsibility for some portion of the externalities of the production process or transaction.

    2. In California slowing down for the yellow is a good way to get rear-ended, if not shot in a road rage incident. Most locales feature little or no actual traffic enforcement as the understaffed police run from one domestic violence/robbery/on-street derangement (forget getting a report taken on auto break-ins as not taking a report is a great way to get the crime statistics down). But SF especially does exult in towing out-of-town dealer plates who they seem to target.

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