Thursday, April 26, 2018

Do Not Pay chatbot program helps people to contest parking tickets using new technology

Services powered by new technology such as DoNotPay and others streamline the process of contesting parking tickets. The chatbot program is free and through a series of simple questions evaluates whether an appeal is likely to be successful.

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An example from Seattle, Washington
As many of us would when he found a parking ticket on his windshield, Dan Lear a resident of Seattle normally would simply pay the ticket even though he felt he had been misled by street signage. However, once before he had successfully used DoNotPay a free chatbot service to win a dismissal of a ticket back in 2016. He decided to try again.
The victorious Lear, who is himself an attorney said: “I guess I’m torn between supporting my local government but also ensuring that people have the right to appeal things that they feel are not fair or not legal.”
The chatbot asks such questions as if the parking sign was difficult to read or if the ticket had incorrect details. If it thinks there is a chance of a successful contesting of the ticket, it will then produce a letter containing a formal legal defense that could be submitted to the proper authorities online or by mail. The creator of DoNotPay is Joshua Browder.
Joshua Browder
Joshua Browder was born in the UK in 1997 and grew up in Hendon London. However, as of last year he was still studying at Stanford University in California the alma mater of his father.
At the age of 18 he began to drive and also accumulate parking tickets. He felt that a disproportionate number of the tickets targeted the elderly and disabled. He also noticed the formulaic format of appeals. This lead him to create the chatbot "DoNotPay".
Browder taught himself to code at the age of 12. According to Forbes he programmed the entire website between the hours of 12 AM and 3 AM.
The success of DoNotPay
The chatbot has helped drivers in the UK and US beat more than 450,000 parking tickets representing $13 million in fines. The chatbot wins dismissals more than half the time according to Browder. This compares with a dismissal rate of around 35 percent in Los Angeles and just 21 percent in New York City.
Browder claimed that parking tickets were a source of revenue and he considers that wrong. He has been called the Robin Hood of the Internet by BBC. Browder said that local governments generally did not like him.
Nevertheless investors like his company and he recently received $1.1 million to expand into helping fight property tax evaluations and file for divorce among other things. There are already other companies to compete in fighting tax evaluations and parking tickets. The service has now expanded into many other areas than parking tickets as shown on the appended video.
Impact of losing fine revenue varies with municipalities
Nationwide less than one percent of revenue for local governments come from parking tickets. But some municipalities are much more dependent on such revenue than others.
In 2013, 21 of 90 municipalities St. Louis County in Missouri collected more than 20 percent of their revenue from court fines and fees of which parking and speeding tickets were a large portion.
State budgets too could suffer. In 2015 a decrease in ticket volume forced the Nevada Supreme Court to seek a bailout for the state. No doubt DoNotPay and competitors such as Winit can expand to contest other traffic fines reducing revenue further.
To try and compensate, municipalities would need to hire more employees to check tickets to ensure that they could not be contested. Mark Granado, manager of parking operations and support for the Los Angeles Dept. of Transportation said: “At this point, we don’t have an automated process, so it may cost our constituents money.” Granado actually said he welcomed the professionalization of appeals.
DoNotPay has its own website here.
Previously published in Digital Journal

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