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The Third Street Tunnel case is not the first time the Metropolitan Police Department’s automated ticket unit has issued invalid speeding tickets and fines to unsuspecting motorists. Sgt. Robinson pointed to a speed-camera citation he received in November that was dismissed by a DMV hearing examiner because of the District’s “failure to meet its burden of proof.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations require that, when cameras are used to enforce speed limits, there must be secondary measurement to ensure accuracy, such as white painted lines on the road to show the distance a car traveled while recorded by the camera.

However, for reasons unknown, the automated ticket unit did not include any such secondary measures. That omission could invalidate more than 100,000 similar citations, Sgt. Robinson said, with a revenue potential of more than $10 million.

It is unclear whether the fines associated with those tickets were ever refunded.

John B. Townsend II, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the District brought in more than $55 million in automated enforcement fines last year, bolstered by an increase of fines such as the ones levied from the Third Street Tunnel of 150 percent.

Questionable practices such as occurred in the case of the tunnel tickets “make the motoring public highly suspicious of automated traffic programs,” Mr. Townsend said.

“They question the integrity of the program and wonder aloud if the District is putting profits ahead of traffic safety,” he said. “Once the accuracy and integrity of the system are compromised or brought in question because things are being done with a wink or a nod or on the slipshod, the program is undermined, and motorists lose confidence in law enforcement.”