DENVER — The senior director of the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles is working to enhance the agency’s ability to detect errors through computer technology after the FOX31 Problem Solvers uncovered a series of issues that led to a woman’s mistaken arrest.
“It was very egregious for the person that had to go through that problem… and we want to make sure nobody has to go through that again,” said Mike Dixon, the senior director of the Colorado DMV.
The FOX31 Problem Solvers brought Katharyn Grant’s case to Dixon’s attention after Grant was mistakenly arrested, handcuffed and asked to pay $500 in cash to avoid jail over the summer.
“It was the most terrifying and humiliating experience I’ve ever had, and I just felt totally helpless,” said Grant.
In July, a police officer pulled over Grant for an unrelated traffic violation and told her he had to detain her because she had a warrant for her arrest.
“I was totally dumbfounded. I thought, ‘What have I done? Entered an alternate universe? This can’t be happening.’ It made me feel sick,” she said.
A court had issued the warrant for Grant’s arrest after various errors made it look like she had not paid fines associated with a traffic citation issued in November 2018.
In reality, she had paid the fines — in cash — at the DMV, days after she received the citation.
“I just felt the world was sinking… I was just hoping and praying that I would be able to find (the) receipt from almost a year ago,” she told the FOX31 Problem Solvers.
Fortunately, she found the receipt.
“I am sorry for what she had to go through,” said Lu Cordova, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Revenue, which oversees the DMV.
Cordova said Grant’s issues started when a DMV clerk entered misinformation into the agency’s computer system.
She said the citation — which was handwritten — was difficult to interpret.
“When the ticket was written, it was not clear to the clerk… what the jurisdiction (issuing the ticket) was. The way it was written was not clear,” said Cordova.
As a result, the clerk incorrectly documented which police jurisdiction had issued Grant’s citation.
Cordova said the DMV has a computer program that helps catch errors later in the process, but the program uses jurisdiction as a data point.
When the jurisdiction is entered into the system incorrectly, the computer program is unable to use that information to detect a mistake.
“After our review of the process, we took steps immediately to initiate a programming change in our drive system to allow more data points to be looked at for each ticket to make sure we find that if there’s an error, we call it out — identify it — to make corrections,” said Dixon.
Dixon is also pushing for a more uniform law enforcement ticket-writing system.
He said the DMV is working with the State Traffic Records Advisory Committee (STRAC) to come up with a way for the state’s 110 different law enforcement agencies to more uniformly write tickets, so DMV clerks who must interpret those handwritten citations are better able to avoid errors.
Meanwhile, Cordova said Grant did receive a warning letter from the DMV several months before her arrest, but Grant ignored it.
“Now, it becomes on (Grant) to say, ‘Hey, why did I get this letter? This is wrong.’ At which point, she would’ve contacted us. We would’ve gone in. We would’ve contacted the court to say, ‘OK, our computer didn’t catch it, but (Grant) came back. We caught it,’ and we could have cleared all of this up,” Cordova said.
Grant’s case was eventually cleared, and she said she was refunded the $500 she paid to avoid jail the day she was arrested.