What should I write in my parking mitigation statement?
June 26, 2010 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I got a parking ticket in Seattle, and I'm going to write a written mitigation statement. What should I say?

I rented a car and bought a bunch of junk at Target, and then parked in the no parking zone in front of my apartment for about 10 min while I took it upstairs rather than walking from a couple of streets away. When I came down, parking enforcement, which I had never seen on this street before, was just putting the ticket on my windshield. I don't figure that this story will impress the judge, but maybe I should try it?

The main reason I am asking for the fine to be reduced is that I have heard that they will often do this for first offenders, and I have never had a parking ticket (or other traffic infraction) in this state, and haven't had one in any state for about nine years. How should I say this? I feel like if I say "never in Washington state" they might assume I have been getting them all over.

Anything else I should add or consider?
posted by grouse to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, consider just paying it. You parked illegally, you got the ticket, you pay the fine.

Not sure why you think you should be given a pass on this.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure how things roll up in Washington state, but if it's the same there as it is where I am there's a manditory minimum fine regardless of how good a driver you are. If you aren't contesting the validity of the ticket, it'd probably be best to just write a very brief note saying you realize now it wasn't OK to park there, you are sorry, and you respectfully request the court consider your good history in setting the fine.

You'll likely get the lowest fine possible if you plead guitly without the statement, anyway.
posted by Menthol at 1:51 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Or plead guilty, even.
posted by Menthol at 1:52 PM on June 26, 2010

There's nothing to stop you from trying, but you...admit that you parked illegally. Just going on the stories that my dad tells--and he is a traffic court judge--this isn't going to work. I'd save myself the wasted time and just pay it.
posted by corey flood at 1:53 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

The best advice I ever got from a police officer friend: "So, you didn't deserve this ticket? How many times have you gotten away with something that you weren't given a ticket for? Pay the fine."

Since this is the first time in nine years, you are overdue. Just pay it.
posted by Old Geezer at 2:07 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Right, pay it. Where's the mitigation? You parked, you pay, no?
posted by fivesavagepalms at 2:30 PM on June 26, 2010

If I was going to write the letter, I would not admit directly or tacitly I parked illegally. I would claim that the ticket is a hardship in terms of money while pointing out you have not had a moving violation or parking ticket in at least 9 years and never in the state of Washington. I would ask for consideration of your good driving record and the financial hardship you are in in these perilous economic times.

Then, when I am found guilty, I would pay up and pay up right away.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:54 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

A mitigating circumstance is that the sign was missing, not that you missed the sign, and certainly not that you ignored the sign. You do not have a legitimate argument and really, should pay the fine in full and not take up any more of the over-burdened traffic court's time.

I mean that in a tone much less snippy than it sounds, but really - you got nothin' here.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:12 PM on June 26, 2010

Growing up, we lived on a cul-de-sac well off the beaten path and all families in the three houses there were in the habit of parking head-on at the end of the circle. One night a neighbor was ticketed by Cal. Highway Patrol for not parking parallel. She contested it and the judge threw it out, saying, 'What the hell was the highway patrol doing out there anyway?'

Write the letter explaining what happened, just like you did above. All they can do is say no.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:14 PM on June 26, 2010

A similar thing happened to me in Seattle years ago. I had a temporary parking permit hanging from my rearview mirror, but one morning I got a ticket because the officer obviously didn't see it, he/she had only looked for a sticker.

I was pissed, so I went down to the courthouse to protest it. I met with a judge in his office and explained the situation. He seemed pretty sympathetic, and said "How about you pay half?" This irritated me--I thought even half was ridiculous--but rather than be argumentative and continue to bitch, I went ahead and paid.

If you talk to someone in person, you might get it halved or if you're really lucky, dropped.
posted by zardoz at 3:30 PM on June 26, 2010

Were your hazard (go-around) lights on? Was it in a lane of traffic, or in front of a fire hydrant?
posted by gjc at 3:54 PM on June 26, 2010

DarlingBri, actually, a mitigating circumstance is "Your Honor, I broke the law, but I had a good reason." This is straight from the mouth of a King County traffic court judge -- Seattle is in King County -- who was explaining to us the difference between making a mitigating statement and pleading not guilty on a traffic infraction.

The example he used was of speeding to the hospital because your wife is in labor. "You did it," he said. "You broke the speed limit, and you did it knowingly. You had what you considered to be a good reason, and at a mitigation hearing, I'll consider that. But if you plead not guilty, and then the very first words out of your mouth are what amounts to a confession, you'll get nothing else from me."

Grouse is absolutely right to make a mitigating statement here. He committed the infraction but, in his consideration, he had a good reason.
posted by KathrynT at 4:58 PM on June 26, 2010

In your jurisdiction is there a difference between parking and stopping? If so, you were stopped for loading/unloading purposes but presumably forgot to put on your blinking hazard lights? Add this to previous record etc. and go for it if it's worth the potential waste of your time/energy, and then be really ready not to fight it and to pay up. It's a long shot at best.
posted by kch at 5:14 PM on June 26, 2010

Response by poster: Not sure why you think you should be given a pass on this.

Not a pass, a reduction in the fine, as I understand is common for people who are not repeat offenders.

Were your hazard (go-around) lights on? Was it in a lane of traffic, or in front of a fire hydrant?

No, but they should have been. It is on a quiet residential street where parking is not allowed on one side of the street.

In Seattle, when you get a parking citation, you can contest it, plead mitigating circumstances in person or by mail, or pay it. I've already filled in the form to plead mitigating circumstances which means I have admitted the infraction and promise to pay the fine if the judge says so.

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions, guys!
posted by grouse at 6:57 PM on June 26, 2010

If the no parking area was an implied loading zone then you should not have been ticketed but from your description of no parking on that entire side you took a big risk knowing the law. Unfortunately that risk did not pay off. You should have just put the boxes inside the door of the apartment without leaving sight of your car.

You could plead guilty and say that you were simply unloading packages which would have been impossible to carry from afar. If you had the hazard lights on (you really should have, although it wouldn't make a difference to the parking checker) then you should also mention that.

The system is under no obligation to reduce your fine and it most likely is a small amount. Learn from this and think of future strategies to avoid this problem.
posted by JJ86 at 5:21 AM on June 27, 2010

You could plead guilty and say that you were simply unloading packages which would have been impossible to carry from afar.

This is called a mitigation statement, and it's exactly what he's doing. A mitigation statement carries with it a plea of guilty, people -- it's not like he's asking to get let off scot free! This is a procedure that is well-documented and advertised within the local traffic courts!
posted by KathrynT at 10:56 AM on June 27, 2010

I did mitigation last year in Seattle (well in Issaquah) for a speeding ticket. I went in person for a mitigation hearing, and I was told that due to my previously clean driving record they would remove the ticket from my record if I didn't get any further tickets over the next 12 months.

That said, at least in my situation, mitigation still involved its own fee (I think it was around $80). It made sense for me, because I wanted to keep a speeding ticket off my record for insurance reasons, but for a parking ticket I wonder if the mitigation fee would be as expensive as the ticket itself, making it a less appealing option. Just a thought.

As to what to write on the form, I just checked a box requesting in person mitigation... didn't write anything on the paper.
posted by stilly at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2010

The best hope you have is a mitigation hearing, which means going downtown, wearing a jacket, and being nice to the magistrate. That won't guarantee you any mitigation, but you stand a better chance of getting the fine reduced if you show up.

Keep in mind it's all about the violation and whether the magistrate's in a good mood, tho. I was able to get a driving with an expired tab ticket cut by 40%, but my wife had to pay full price for going 25 in a 20 mph school zone because the judge was grumpy and it was a school zone.

OTOH, you have to ask if taking an hour-plus out of your day to meet with the magistrate is worth your time given that a parking ticket in Seattle is $40 and you'll probably, at best, save $20. They're not going to throw out your ticket based on your story, and given that parking tickets aren't major violations, your insurance doesn't care.
posted by dw at 2:09 PM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: I wrote a very concise letter to the judge pointing out that I was there for a very short period of time and my clean driving record. The magistrate reduced my fine to $10. Thanks everyone!
posted by grouse at 6:52 PM on August 14, 2010

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