Why has the Department of Finance cancelled what reportedly amounts to $37.4 million in fines for parking tickets—$11.4 million for parking tickets dismissed at Parking Violations Bureau hearings and $26 million for tickets dismissed by DOF administratively (see Danielle Furfaro, “City didn’t notice error that got millions in parking tickets dismissed,” New York Post, Nov. 20, 2017, at https://nypost.com/2017/11/19/city-didnt-notice-error-that-got-millions-in-parking-tickets-dismissed/ (accessed Dec. 6, 2017).
In cancelling those fines, DOF must rely on section 238 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which requires that parking tickets contain, among other information, “a description of the charged violation, including … a reference to the applicable traffic rule” (VTL 238) and that “[i]f any information which is required to be inserted on a [parking ticket] is omitted from the [ticket], misdescribed or illegible, the violation shall be dismissed upon application of the person charged with the violation” (VTL 238[2-a][b]).
The tickets in question, which issued to vehicles for either failing to display a parking meter receipt or displaying an expired parking meter receipt while parked in a parking meter zone, describe the charged violation correctly in words and cite the correct section and subdivision of the applicable traffic rule. However, those tickets misdescribe the paragraph of that subdivision–citing NYC Traffic Rule §4-08(h)(10) instead of §4-08(h)(1), which had replaced §4-08(h)(10) effective April 20, 2017 (see NYC Rules, “DOT Amendment to Traffic Rules,” at http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/content/dot-amendment-traffic-rules-0 [accessed Nov. 20, 2017]).
DOF did not issue those tickets (see generally, on authorized issuing agents: VTL 237; NYC Charter 2903[a]; 19 RCNY 39-01), but is charged with operating and controlling the Parking Violations Bureau (NYC Charter 1504). The Bureau is an administrative tribunal empowered to adjudicate charges of parking violation (see VTL 155; VTL Article 2-B; NYC Administrative Code, Title 19, Ch. 2; 19 RCNY Ch. 39).
Instead of voluntarily cancelling fines totaling $37.4 million, should DOF have taken the position that, absent a court deciding otherwise, the tickets comply with VTL 238(2) by containing a description of the charged violation, including a reference to the applicable traffic rule? As noted, the tickets describe the charged violation correctly in words and cite the correct section and subdivision of the applicable traffic rule, but misdescribe the paragraph of that subdivision.
What is puzzling about DOF’s volunteering to cancel the fines is not just that the fines total tens of millions of dollars but that DOF routinely treats misdescription of information required by VTL 238(2) as an affirmative defense, not a jurisdictional defect (see Dennis Boshnack, ”First Department Supports Dismissing Parking Tickets” [NYLJ, Outside Counsel, Sept. 11, 2014]).
Yet, in dismissing tickets for misdescription here, DOF elected to dismiss tickets administratively on a technicality even where the parking ticket recipient did not claim prejudice from any error, did not make an application for dismissal of the charged violation, or paid the parking ticket without contesting it (cf. NYC Dept. of Finance, Fines, “Alert: Incorrectly Issued Parking Tickets,” http://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/vehicles/vehicles.page [accessed Dec. 6, 2017]).
The writer is an attorney in Bayside, N.Y.