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Parking Ticket Extortion

Extortion is defined by Wikipedia as:
Extortion (also called shakedown, outwresting, and exaction) is a criminal offense of unlawfully obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence is sufficient to commit the offense. Exaction refers not only to extortion or the unlawful demanding and obtaining of something through force,[1] but additionally, in its formal definition, means the infliction of something such as pain and suffering or making somebody endure something unpleasant.
While on our vacation, we visited Washington D.C.  It was a pretty cool trip and we enjoyed many of the things we saw and were able to check out while there.  I would do it all again if given the choice to redo that leg of the trip, but one not-so-little annoyance came into play during our short visit: a parking ticket.

Mind you, we were very diligent about parking in the correct places and utilizing public transportation.  As a matter of fact, during the two days we were there, we paid $42 and some change to park our vehicle in various places.  I pumped change into parking meters, swiped my card at electronically-controlled parking stalls, and even downloaded an app on my phone at one point to pay for parking.  And, we paid just over $50 to use the local subways.

I feel like I was awfully responsible and budgeted for these expenditures even before our trip.  But, one place got us.  Just before leaving D.C., we ate at a Fuddruckers.  We parallel parked in a 2-hour parking zone but upon using the app to pay for the parking it told me "This zone does not accept paid parking at this time."  So, we read the parking signs which mentioned two periods of time during the day but didn't include the time period in which we found ourselves parked there.  We asked an employee at the Fuddruckers about the parking to which he replied, "If it won't let you pay for the parking then it must be the 'free parking' period."

I still didn't feel good about it but I decided to trust the local's opinion over my own.  After all, the photo here depicts very similar signage to what was being displayed at our location.  The contradiction of the top sign to the bottom one is not cool.  It's clear that Washington D.C. is preying upon people in order to bring in undeserved gain.  If I, an English-speaking vacation planner, can get confused by the signs and the lack of a clear message, then what chance do the rest of the non-English-speaking tourists have?  And there seemed to be far less English-speaking tourists than not.

But, it's just a parking ticket, right?  Well, it's a $100 parking ticket.  That's not cool at all.  That risks leaving a very bad taste in my mouth for having visited there.  And, this is our nation's capital?  I looked up to see if this would be something that I would have to pay.  And, I found many a forum discussing the implications of not paying such a ticket.  It's just municipal, not criminal.  But, what they'll do is double the fine after 30 days.  Then, they send it to a collections agency.  One person reported having their credit score drop from a pretty nice 810 to 710 over one such parking ticket.  Others reported being denied tag renewal in their home state until the ticket is paid with fees that brought the ticket to over three times the original (and excessive) amount.  All people I found discussing these ticket issues in D.C. have reported that talking to someone is useless as the only people you can reach claim that there is nothing that they can do.  And why should they help?  Washington D.C. collected $92.6 million in 2012 from parking tickets alone.  It's clearly their business to collect money, not to fix an obvious problem.

All this is ridiculous.  The whole point of a parking ticket is to keep automobiles from being parked where they shouldn't be.  The easiest way to do this is to have signs that make sense.  In our example, it should have read "No Parking from 4:00 to 6:30." Or at the very least, the downloaded app and the electronic parking payment station should have said it.  But, they didn't.  The app said that there was no PAID parking.  Leaving out that word would have been more clear.  The signs made no reference to the time period we were there.  And the screen on the electronic parking payment station was damaged and illegible, no doubt from an unhappy driver who received a ticket they didn't deserve.

So, if the point of a parking ticket is to keep me from parking in that spot again during that time period, then why must I pay a $100 ticket?  I live in Missouri.  Guess what, I'm not going to park there again.  Why must it increase to $200 after 30 days?  Why must it triple after 90 days?  Why must my credit rating be affected?  What does my credit worthiness on repaying borrowed money have to do with it?  Why must they enlist the help of Missouri's DMV in denying me future car registrations?  This seems an awful lot like a shakedown by a very organized crime group.

So, in revisiting my initial provided definition of extortion, it's clear that only one word in that definition is keeping D.C. from fitting the bill.  That word is "unlawfully."  See what they did?  Washington D.C. has made it the law and thus lawful to do as long as it is them doing it.  So, my question to you is this:  If some entity has the power to make themselves exempt from criminal activity by altering the law, does this remove them from the moral implications?  Or, are they still criminals just acting with the law on their side?


Wait, wait, wait. Hold your horses a minute and explain this to me.

You're saying there's CORRUPTION in Washington, D. C.?

Sir, I find that especially hard to believe. For SHAME.

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