Help! I've gotten a ticket and I don't know what to do!
June 5, 2009 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Could I argue this handicap parking violation?

I recently got a ticket for parking in a handicap parking slot. It occurred around 8:30 pm and I truthfully did not notice it was a handicap spot when I parked in it (I know this is not a valid reason for contesting it). The only reason that I am considering contesting it is the fact that it was not properly painted. There is a sign, but the curb is extremely faded and there is no painted symbol on the ground. Just down the street in the same square there are multiple cases of properly painted and signed spaces.

My questions are:

Is it the law to have these spaces properly painted or is it just enough to have the sign? What are the regulations for a handicap space? Do State regulations or Federal govern city regulations? If I go to court, could I plead “no contest” or just “not guilty” and how would I argue this? (If in fact it is arguable).

Here here here and here are pictures of the spot I parked in

Here and here are pictures of a spot on the other side of the square.

I live in the Bay area in California. The ticket is $308.00. The ticket tells me to write a letter first if I wish to contest it, then I’ll receive a letter back if I can, isn’t that weird?
posted by Groovytimes to Law & Government (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There is clearly a handicapped parking sign posted. Pay the fine and learn the lesson.
posted by torquemaniac at 8:58 AM on June 5, 2009

You'll never win that challenge.
posted by unixrat at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2009

The sign is clearly visible. Pay the fine, and look more carefully before you park in the future.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:17 AM on June 5, 2009

The sign is right in front of the spot. Plenty of handicapped parking spaces don't have the symbol painted on the ground. You have no chance.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:19 AM on June 5, 2009

There's a blue disabled parking sign posted right in front of the spot and a blue painted curb, that's plenty per California Vehicle Code Section 22511.7:

(b) (1) Whenever a local authority so designates a parking space,
it shall be indicated by blue paint on the curb or edge of the paved
portion of the street adjacent to the space. In addition, the local
authority shall post immediately adjacent to and visible from the
space a sign consisting of a profile view of a wheelchair with
occupant in white on a blue background.
posted by jamaro at 9:31 AM on June 5, 2009

Many people get very upset when non-handicapped people park in handicap spots. I'm one of those people, but more importantly your judge will probably be one of those people too. Pay the ticket and learn from your mistake.
posted by Houstonian at 9:32 AM on June 5, 2009

Best answer: If it was painted but not signed, you would have a case.

With a sign... pay the fine.
posted by Precision at 9:38 AM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: Hey that rhymes, favorite answer!
posted by Groovytimes at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2009

That sign isn't anywhere in line with the rest of the signs - it's WAY too high. I would fight this, saying it's not a normal sign and the spot isn't painted.
posted by bensherman at 9:49 AM on June 5, 2009

I take that back, looking at the picture again, I see the sign isn't set as far back (I thought it was attached to the sign post.

I would still fight it and ask that the money you pay be used to repaint the spot. It is good for this to be visible not only so you don't park in the spot, but also so that people who need the spot can see it is for them
posted by bensherman at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: "Shall be indicated in blue paint on the addition, posting of a sign"

See that gets my mind considering that I could argue it because of the paint issue.
posted by Groovytimes at 10:08 AM on June 5, 2009

I can see why you think you might be able to contest it and it might be worth your while to write the (very polite) letter outlining why you made what you consider to be a completely uncharacteristic mistake. I normally police handicapped spaces with much more vehemence than my wheelchair-using partner but in this case I won't. That space is poorly designated and if your letter does nothing else it might result in a better marked space which will benefit everyone. I'd be prepared to pay the fine though because ultimately the parking violations department will argue that they complied with the law and you didn't.
posted by firstdrop at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2009

If the ticket is big enough you might as well give it a shot. Explain it was an honest mistake, it was dark, it's your first ticket evar (if that is indeed true) etc etc and you might luck out. Or you might not. I wouldn't go for the overly legalistic argument, since you don't really know the law.
posted by electroboy at 10:39 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's my understanding that the SIGN is the important decider of whether a space is handicapped or not, not the paint.

So you have no complaint.
posted by @troy at 10:41 AM on June 5, 2009

Electroboy's route seems reasonable, but I would expect, at best, to have the fine reduced (and it may be worth the trouble just for that - $308 isn't chump change).

Good luck, look up next time you park.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2009

Best answer: I don't understand the mindset that someone who makes a one-time mistake like this must simply meekly accept their punishment. If you look around, due to the nature of the enforcement, there are a lot of people who do this routinely and seldom get caught. It sucks to make a mistake and be unlucky enough to get immediately caught. I would contest this ticket, fully understanding the effort might be futile, but hoping you'll get a break with a sympathetic judge/administrator.

I would fully admit wrongness, but emphasize the space was harder to see at night and there were several nearby which were prominently and fully marked. I'd say after driving past those fully marked spaces looking for a spot, you missed the sign and didn't recognize the spot you chose as handicapped. Use your pictures.

This would likely work much better before a judge. If the letter you send goes to a city traffic clerk, they are less likely to accept it because they are partly in the revenue-raising business.
posted by aguy at 10:50 AM on June 5, 2009

The curb is, in fact, blue in your photos. You are an adult who can take responsibility for not looking at a clearly posted sign and blue curb that are both within legal requirements.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2009

My gf gets her speeding/light-running tickets fixed by one of those traffic lawyers that advertise on billboards. It's possible that they can fix parking tickets as well.

The amount you pay the lawyer is generally well under the amount of the ticket, at least in Las Vegas.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:19 PM on June 5, 2009

You should contest it. But don't "Argue it."

The number one policy when dealing with these situations: Be polite, be reasonable and be honest. You made a mistake, and it was in part (though not in whole) due to the poorly painted sign.

Judges are human beings. If you go in front of the court, explain your mistake, your reasons behind it, and apologize for it, the judge may very well cut you a break.

Judges can throw out a ticket, and can also reduce it. The judge may simply say "alright, I'll cut this ticket down to $100."
posted by HabeasCorpus at 12:47 PM on June 5, 2009

I also think you are ethically entitled to contest the ticket. I respectfully disagree with the "pay the fine and learn the lesson" mentality.

You made an honest mistake, and so I do not believe you deserve the full force of the law hammered down upon you (in the form of a $300 ticket.)
posted by HabeasCorpus at 12:55 PM on June 5, 2009

It can't hurt to fight it; all you've got to lose is your time and a postage stamp. My boss got a ticket for parking in a clearly marked handicapped spot once. He sent a letter contesting it, stating that the office building where he'd parked was basically closed as it was after working hours, there were hardly any cars left in the parking lot, and there were four additional handicapped spots next to the one he'd parked in and none were being used at the time, so he wasn't taking the slot away from anyone. He added that "I thought the purpose of handicapped parking places was as a convenience to the disabled, not to raise revenue for the city of Birmingham." They reduced his $200 ticket to $75.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2009

Nobody is "ethically entitled" to anything. You are legally entitled to contest it.

There is a difference between "I totally got nailed speeding, how do I get out of it" and "weird circumstances, what are the chances?"

Regardless of the reason, your vehicle was in the parking space illegally. It doesn't make a difference who in the past has gotten caught or not gotten caught. And so you have the option of mounting a defense (technically an affirmative defense, I believe) that says "yes, I was there, but here's why I don't think I'm guilty of the law."
posted by gjc at 6:27 PM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: Update:

I sent in a letter with the pictures, I just got a denial back and I am sending in my written hearing request. I had the choice between in person and written.

Here's another question: If they still deny my claim then can I get another hearing in person on the basis of "facing my accuser" or is this it?

posted by Groovytimes at 2:05 AM on July 19, 2009

Response by poster: Update:

I paid the fine, I learned my lesson.
posted by Groovytimes at 12:39 PM on January 25, 2010

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