The story of Bruce Redwine and the Chantilly Service Center made people mad. For years, he and other auto shop owners watched with outrage as a Fairfax County parking enforcement officer ticketed cars that were awaiting state inspection or repair. One shop owner estimated his customers had been hit with $60,000 worth of fines and fees for expired inspection stickers or tags over six years. Redwine got so angry he snatched one ticket out of the parking officer’s hand, only to be charged with felony assault on a police officer.
State Del. James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) investigated the situation after reading about it in The Washington Post in October. He introduced a bill in December to prohibit ticketing cars awaiting state inspection, and it passed both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly unanimously. On Wednesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law, his spokesman said.
“Cool,” said Redwine, working as usual in his shop in the Mariah Business Center off Route 28 Wednesday afternoon. “Absolutely it’s a good thing. But most people waiting for inspections weren’t a target. Here, people were targeted by the condo association, which was using the Fairfax parking police as their agent. It’s not so much the police were targeting as the [condominium management],” he said, using a more colorful adjective for the association which oversees the industrial park on Sullyfield Circle.
There was not much dispute that cars with expired tags or registration were being ticketed in Mariah, largely because Mariah’s property management firm had provided Fairfax police with a letter in 2009 specifically granting police permission to enforce county traffic, parking and towing ordinances on the private property. The auto shop operators all rent from owners of individual units in the industrial park, and their owners claimed to be powerless to revoke or change the police letter because they weren’t on the condo board of directors. J.R. Motz, the park’s property manager for Commercial Condominium Management, declined to answer questions about the letter or the condo board.
One parking enforcement officer in particular, Jacquelyn D. Hogue, was a regular in ticketing cars outside the repair shops, the shop operators said and court records showed. When she entered the industrial park, word spread rapidly and shop employees hustled to move their customers’ cars inside before Hogue could slap a ticket on them. Redwine, who’s been running Chantilly Service Center for 21 years, said he did state inspections and emissions tests first thing in the morning, to make sure no expired stickers were visible, but cars sometimes failed, and repairs sometimes took time.
Shoaib Massoud, the operator of A-Zee Auto Repair, said, “The cars are coming here for repair. I talk to her [Hogue] politely, but no good. We are suffering, for sure.” Hogue declined to comment, but a Fairfax police spokeswoman said Hogue was merely responding to a request for service, and that Motz and Mariah had repeatedly sought heavier parking enforcement.
In one episode in October 2014, Hogue ticketed one of Redwine’s customers’ cars even though he had moved the car into his garage. As Hogue walked toward him with the ticket extended, Redwine said he snatched it out of her hand. He admitted using some insulting language toward her, but not touching her. Hogue later went to a magistrate who issued a felony warrant for Redwine. Redwine had to surrender himself at the Fairfax jail, be handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted and photographed.
Then he went to trial, where Fairfax prosecutors reduced the charge to a misdemeanor — Hogue is not a police officer — but Redwine was convicted and sentenced to four days in jail. He appealed to circuit court and in September 2015 a jury found him not guilty after 20 minutes of deliberation. But he had to spend thousands in legal fees to reach that result.
“The police ought to have better things to do,” LeMunyon said after visiting the auto shops last fall, “than play ‘Gotcha!’ with people who are trying to comply with the law.”
There are already a number of vehicles which are exempt from inspection in Virginia, to include antique cars and newly purchased vehicles. LeMunyon in December proposed adding vehicles “parked in an official inspection station’s designated parking area.” But as the bill went through the General Assembly, the Senate changed it to vehicles “parked on a highway and that have been submitted for a motor vehicle safety inspection to an official inspection station.”
On Thursday, LeMunyon said the new law is “an example of how government can address the practical concerns that face people, and do so in a bipartisan way.”
The House approved the bill 99-0 in January, the Senate approved it with its change 39-0 in February, and the House approved that amendment 38-0 in March. McAuliffe signed the bill Wednesday, his spokesman Brian Coy said.
“One would think you don’t need to legislate common sense,” said Dickson Young, Redwine’s attorney who won his acquittal. “If the Fairfax police had exercised some common sense, legislation wouldn’t have been necessary.”