I Got a Little More Libertarian This Week

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

(Warning: Self-indulgent, this-is-my-blog-so-I’ll-whine-if-I-want-to bitching ahead.)

So just before I left D.C., I was caught by a speed camera. They sent me a ticket for $150. The problem is that the initial ticket never got to me. I guess it got lost in the shuffle of my move. I had my mail forwarded, but there was about a 3-4 day lag after I moved and before the U.S. Postal Service’s mail forwarding kicked in.

So the first I heard of the ticket was when the second notice was forwarded to me in Nashville. And since it had been 30 days since the ticket was issued, my fine doubled to $300. I decided to challenge the $150 late fee. But you aren’t permitted to call and talk to a live person about any of this. The only way to challenge an automated ticket is to send documentation and a letter through the mail. So I sent the ticket, a letter explaining the situation, and the envelope the second notice came in, which included the USPS forwarding sticker on the outside.

Last week, I received a notice, also originally sent to me old address then forwarded to me by the Post Office, letting me know that my challenge is under review. But it could take up to twelve months for the powers that be to reach a decision. The kicker comes in the last paragraph, which lets me know that the final judgment will be sent to the address the D.C. DMV has on file for me. That of course would be my former address in Virginia. Which means the notice may come after the Post Office stops forwarding my mail. Which means it may not actually get delivered to me. Which is the reason I didn’t get the original ticket in the first place. Which is the reason I’m challenging the fine.

I called the D.C. DMV. I explained the problem. I asked if I could simply change the address they have on file for me to be sure the answer to my challenge actually gets to me. The helpful public servant told me that—and you can see where this is going—I can only change my address in person or by mail. And it’s actually even more complicated than that. D.C. got my address from the Virginia DMV. Which means they won’t change my address until the Virginia DMV does. But because Virginia has a car tax, you can’t change your address to an out-of-state address until you can prove to them that you’ve registered your car in your new state.

I explained this to the D.C. DMV public servant. All I want here is to make sure that the adjudication letter actually gets to me so I know if I have to pay $150 or $300. She said I’d have to spell all of this out in a letter and . . . send it to the same address to which I sent my challenge. I said, “And they’ll then respond to me by mail?” She said yes. I said, “And they’ll send their answer to my question to my Virginia address that you have on file?” She said yes. I said, “And that will go to the same backlogged office that my challenge went to?” She said yes. I said, “Do you see the problem, here?” She non-answered, in an automaton, I’m-done-with-you voice, “Questions and challenges to automated tickets can only be made my mail.”

Also, it’s August. And the IRS still hasn’t sent my tax refund. Helpful IRS hotline public servant told me to call back if I don’t hear back from the government in three months. She couldn’t tell me what the problem is, and she couldn’t promise it would be resolved in three months. Just wait three months. And if I still haven’t received my refund, call back.


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72 Responses to “I Got a Little More Libertarian This Week”

  1. #1 |  Detroiter | 

    Sorry, meh.

    Living in Detroit, I’ve learned it’s just not worth the mindless aggravation to follow up on these things. I pay and get on with life; it’s even worth an extra $150. Try getting redress on a parking ticket at a broken meter here.

    Terry Gilliam is more germane than Kafka. They’re just too bafoonish to be taken seriously.

    Try as I might, I cannot get my local witholdings adjusted to allow me to owe the city. Instead, I wait and wait for the refund. . . still waiting on 2008, not to mention 2009. . . . Last year, I got 2005, 2006, and 2007 refunds in the span of a week, but the amount of one check was wrong. I thought I’d try to collect the additional $300 owed, but I gave up when I arrived at an office overflowing with paper and was told that, although the IBM 486 showed record of my taxes being filed, no one could find the hard copy: Please refile.

    Life’s too short.

  2. #2 |  Spleen | 

    Funny thing was the address to send the check to was Jacksonville, FL. WTF??

    Hmm, those Nigerians are getting cleverer and cleverer…

  3. #3 |  Tom G | 

    You have my sympathies, Radley. I agree with those who are hoping this pushes you towards an even more radical anarchist world-view.

    Also, JS @6 – it was either Albert Jay Nock or Lysander Spooner who first pointed out that a robber – unlike the State – simply takes your money, and doesn’t follow you along afterward insisting they are doing you a service.

  4. #4 |  cliff | 

    >>>Try not voting. If everyone did it, customer service might improve.<<<

    Since a candidate needs only one vote to win and can vote for themselves, how would this work?

  5. #5 |  Marty | 

    #34 | RGD
    ‘I agree you’re in a ridiculous web of beaurecratic tape, but you were speeding, got caught, and now the government’s evil? Hrm…’

    It’ll be poetic when you’re driving through Ohio and some cop ‘visualizes’ you speeding, or you’re driving through any number of towns that reduced the yellow light time on their stop lights and you get nailed by a camera for running a red light, or the new ‘tire depth’ decide your tires are a little too bald and you get nailed with a $100 fine for that… http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/24/2463.asp

    We don’t know he was speeding- there’s no due process. We don’t know that the cameras were calibrated correctly. We don’t know that the speed limit was posted correctly. Radley will never know, either. He’s just the sap stuck with the bill.

  6. #6 |  Tom G | 

    Just found it – the reference I was thinking of was to Lysander Spooner, in his brilliant essay “No Treason” comparing government to a highwayman and preferring the highwayman. Too long to quote here, but that essay is online in several locations and if you haven’t read it, you really should.
    Spooner and Benjamin Tucker are two of the greatest Americans from the 19th century, and it’s a shame their writings aren’t better known.

  7. #7 |  Gary Chartier | 

    Tom G #50: it was Spooner–

    http://praxeology.net/LS-NT-6.htm

  8. #8 |  Gary Chartier | 

    OK, Tom: this went up while I was posting. Sorry to be repetitive. You are so damned right about Spooner and Tucker.

  9. #9 |  Maria | 

    @Radley
    Ouch. Sorry to hear. Then I was even luckier with my refund then I thought.

    Someone up thread suggested .gov should be using email to contact people and conduct business. They should, they should be using all that is available… but, I used to have hopes that technology would streamline government and their agencies. After working on an IT project for a state transportation agency my hopes have been nicely shattered. I can’t help but feel that mostly these projects are badly managed, badly defined, never ending, money pits. Don’t get me wrong, there are some stellar examples of govs (usually local & county level) leveraging appropriate tech for the betterment of their constituents and their operations, but it seems really really rare.

    Further to shatter my hopes that technology can cure kafka moments I can’t help but think of the 2010 census as an example. During the census, they had a down-loadable example form as a PDF, they also had a generic hard copy you could pick up at local police precinct but they did not have a down-loadable generic form as a PDF?

    I didn’t believe it, i just assumed I couldn’t find it, so I called asking where I could download the census form. The census worker gave me a URI to download the example form (the wrong URI) then she informed me that the census did not have the technology to provide down-loadable forms. Oh, ok, thank you.

    Technology will not save the government or us until the government changes how it operates. And that, will not happen any time soon. I feel that it’s just going to get weirder and more bloated and a hell of a lot more dangerous as glitches and technology errors get blamed for everything from incompetence and laziness to corruption and cheating.

  10. #10 |  Mattocracy | 

    bobzbob,

    You are the worst troll ever. You’re most likely scenario is libertarians are responsible for budget cuts? If you’re dumb enough to make that statement, you’re obviously too dumb to understand why it’s idiotic. Do you just pretend that the overwelming evidence of waste and mismanagement by all government agencies just doesn’t exist?

  11. #11 |  The Catch | Whiskey and Car Keys | 

    […] But this morning Radley Balko has a story about becoming more libertarian. See, he moved out of D.C., but has to deal with a speeding ticket that never reached his mailbox. […]

  12. #12 |  Gaunilo | 

    First, we are way behind our British brothers in not putting up with this crap:
    http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm

    Second, Radley, I have a suggestion that might make some compelling blogging for you.

    Recruit some willing legal help (surely there are some young lawyers in the
    D.C. area reading this blog who could help out with this) and mount a full-on legal defense, and document the steps and the outcome on the site as an on-going series.

    I would start with full evidentiary proceedings, and when they are ignored as they will be, do legal appellate work. They will eventually dismiss the case to get you off their back.

    At this point, you should sue them for illegal operation of the racket and for violation of your constitutional rights, and make sure to sue everyone in a position of authority. Don’t sue the poor schmucks who are actually processing the paper unless they take their position of power too literally and urinate you off.

    I think you can stretch this our for several years of fun and jollity if you can get the legal work done on the cuff.

    I think you should have some privileges for being our surrogate raiser of hell and taker of names.

  13. #13 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #54 | cliff
    >>>Try not voting. If everyone did it, customer service might improve.<<<

    "Since a candidate needs only one vote to win and can vote for themselves, how would this work?"

    So, Cliff, you think that democracy would still look like a bright, new, shiny penny if the only vote cast were by the winning candidate?

    More likely, the emperor would be seen for the naked SOB he is. Bye bye democracy!!!

  14. #14 |  Jim Collins | 

    You should get your driver’s license suspension notification any day now Radley. I got one a few years ago for a traffic ticket that I supposedly got in Florida. I hadn’t been in Florida since 1989. Pensylvania gave me 60 days to get it resolved. I got a letter from Florida DMV that said that there was a mistake made. Pennsylvania refused to accept it because it was mailed to me and not them. Then they wouldn’t give me the address to have Florida send them a letter, because they said that Florida had their address. I got it all sorted out on the 61st day. They suspended my license for a day, I had to pay $26 for the reinstatement and $36 for a new license. Then they gave me 5 points on my license, just 1 point under the threashold for suspension.

  15. #15 |  Barnes | 

    Shit is kafkaesque.

  16. #16 |  JOR | 

    “More likely, the emperor would be seen for the naked SOB he is. Bye bye democracy!!!”

    There are plenty of countries where the elections are purely for show. Maybe democracy goes bye bye but the stuff about the state that is actually objectionable remains in all its purified glory.

    It’s not the voting that makes democracy bad. It’s the enforcement. Take away all the armed thugs and their enablers and people could throw ballots around all day and nobody would get hurt. But take away the voting and the thugs will still be there – and they’ll find something to enforce. Take away the order-followers and the order-giver would just be another shouting buffoon; take away the order-giver and the order-followers will find another (or just revert to undisguised freelance banditry).

  17. #17 |  Jeff | 

    I’m jealous those tickets are only $150. Here in California, they cost $500.

  18. #18 |  Duncan20903 | 

    My wife got notified a couple of years back that since she hadn’t paid her parking ticket in a timely manner that the fine had doubled to $40. The problem was the ticket was issued in far NE and her car was never in that neighborhood. So she wrote them a letter explaining that there was no way that could have been her car. They decided to waive the penalty. This really had me beside myself as the ticket was either good in which case we owed them $40 or not, in which case we owed them nothing. Yes, by that time it was time to ‘just pay the two dollars’ and get on with our lives. Then there was the time a few years back when DC suspended my driver’s license for having unpaid tickets. I thought it was rather interesting because I’d never in my life had a DC operator’s permit. Regardless it would have resulted in my real Maryland license being suspended under some Interstate compact deal, and I had to pay almost $200 to ‘reinstate’ the license I had never held in addition to the other monies I ‘owed’.

  19. #19 |  Duncan20903 | 

    My wife got notified a couple of years back that since she hadn’t paid her parking ticket in a timely manner that the fine had doubled to $40. The problem was the ticket was issued in far NE and her car was never in that neighborhood. So she wrote them a letter explaining that there was no way that could have been her car. They decided to waive the penalty. This really had me beside myself as the ticket was either good in which case we owed them $40 or not, in which case we owed them nothing. Yes, by that time it was time to ‘just pay the two dollars’ and get on with our lives. Then there was the time a few years back when DC suspended my driver’s license for having unpaid tickets. I thought it was rather interesting because I’d never in my life held a DC operator’s permit. Regardless it would have resulted in my real Maryland license being suspended under some Interstate compact deal, and I had to pay almost $200 to ‘reinstate’ the license I had never held in addition to the other monies I ‘owed’.

  20. #20 |  Steve Verdon | 

    You get what you vote for.

    And good and hard.

    Why people keep on thinking voting will change any of this nonsense is beyond me. Do you guys really think there is a pony in there?

  21. #21 |  In Which the IRS Affirms My Libertarianism | The Agitator | 

    […] as I noted in April and August, the IRS seems to be having a problem with my 2009 tax refund. It’s now November. And I still […]

  22. #22 |  Dear IRS: This Is Why We Hate You | The Agitator | 

    […] I never got around to updating you on my feud with the IRS. (See here, here, and […]