D.C. driver claims he was unfairly ticketed, car damaged when towed

Even though the District Government says his parking pass was invalid, a D.C. driver claims he was unfairly ticketed and towed.

Whether or not he was legally parked, John Moletress said he is most upset his car was damaged when a tow truck operator moved it.

Moletress said he has never had a problem parking on 4th Street SE, until now.

During a Nationals game Tuesday night, he discovered his car was towed several blocks away. He also got a $30 dollar ticket and a $100 dollar ticket for parking in the neighborhood because of posted ballgame restrictions – even though his visitor parking pass should have allowed him to do so.

But DDOT said his pass was and is invalid because the permit number and parking zone have been torn off. Those numbers are normally found on the top of visitor parking passes issued by the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Moletress said it was a misunderstanding.

“There's a portion of it that looks quite like [an RPP] sticker you stick on your windshield, so I tore it from the top of that thinking that it would actually peel off,” he said. “And then it didn't, so I used it in my dash board.”

When Moletress eventually found his car – after calling 9-1-1, thinking it had been stolen – he also found his car seat had been moved forward and his keyless entry and power locks were not working properly.

A woman told him that she watched a tow truck operator break inside and disable his car alarm after it sounded. Moletress thinks that fumbling with the wiring caused the damage.

In response to his complaint, Department of Public Works spokesperson Linda Grant said tow truck operators do have the authority to enter a private vehicle, if necessary, to do their job. She said they require no warrant or police involvement.

However, she said vehicle owners can submit claims to the Office of Risk Management if they believe their vehicle was damaged when towed.

Moletress thinks that is unfair.

“They can go into your vehicles – people that you don't know – and start messing around with your vehicle's devices, technology, what have you without any sort of awareness of how they operate,” he said. “I mean one wire could be pulled out of position and that could wreck your entire car.”

Residents near the ballpark said they value street parking and appreciate enforcement, but they said the signage is often contradictory and confusing. They add that parking officers are sometimes too aggressive.

Wava Caplis said, “The trucks literally sit there and watch. I've watched them.”

Joann Campbell said, “There's nowhere to park around here, as it is, and when they have a game, I can't do any business.”

Moletress said, “I mean you can ask two different people what they think those signs mean and they'll tell you two different stories.”

Moletress plans to take his vehicle to an auto-body shop to get an estimate on repair work. Meanwhile, he has already appealed the two tickets. And he is calling on DPW to change or review its policy that allows staff members to enter private vehicles.