I fought the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the PPA won?
October 12, 2010 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Philadelphia residents, what's the likelihood of contesting Philadelphia Parking Authority tickets in court and winning? I'd like to not pay the tickets, but don't want to be hit with court fees and increased fines if I lose.

I have four tickets I'm planning on contesting.

Ticket 1 was issued for parking over the two-hour time limit. Except I wasn't actually parked there during the two hours--I left the spot at 2:30, came back at 4:35, and wasn't there for five minutes before the parking officer swooped in an issued a ticket, despite the neighbors and the person I was with all backing up my story that I'd just come back. The parking officer said it didn't matter if my car was in the spot or not, I wasn't allowed to be there.

Ticket 2 and 3 were issued on the same day within an hour of one another. I mistakenly left my car in a two hour zone for five hours, then was dinged by one officer for leaving it for two hours and then got a second ticket for the same offense by another officer later that day. Is this legal?

Ticket 4 was a double-parking violation--I pulled over on the side of the street while a friend ran into the post office, put on my blinkers, then saw someone I knew walking by and hopped out of the car to say hello. Literally in the five minutes while my back was turned a parking officer issued a ticket, despite me coming up in the middle of it to say I'd move the car.

I'm not sure how valid my complaints are, and unfortunately I can't provide witness statements or anything for these situations. I don't know if the judge in these cases is at all amenable to argumentation or whether they issue a "guilty" sentence as a matter of course.

Has anyone had any experience with contesting parking tickets? Like I said, I'd like these tickets dismissed but I've heard if they're not you can get additional fines and court fees ladled on top of the tickets.
posted by schroedinger to Law & Government (13 answers total)
I have heard of ONE person ever successfully accomplishing this. The person in question is an EXTREMELY competent friend of mine who contested a fairly cut-and-dried case (there was literally no way she could have incurred the violations, and she had concrete proof of this).

It still took her over six months, several in-person appearances, literally dozens of hours of paperwork (everything had to be mailed in triplicate, I believe) and an unholy quantity of frustration to accomplish.

PPA tickets are, in some ways, worse than moving violations... you can get out of some traffic tickets if you score a sympathetic judge, or if the officer who nabbed you fails to show up. The PPA don't play that shit: they will attempt to GRIND YOU DOWN, mercilessly, until you pay just so you don't have to deal with them any more.

While I hate the PPA with a passion - and have incurred MANY Philly parking tickets myself (got one just last week!), your violations all fall within the realm of "hazy"... that is, while the people who wrote them were dicks for doing so, they were also fully within their rights to do so. And I hate to say it... when you go up against the PPA, you don't always win when you're TOTALLY in the right. If you're in a nebulous zone, you can pretty much fugeddaboutit.
posted by julthumbscrew at 4:27 PM on October 12, 2010

(On the plus side, you can usually shirk your violations for a good long time before they put you on the "Boot 'n Tow File". They've gotten better at it, but it's still a few months from first citation to the "YOU LEAVE US NO CHOICE!!!" letter [complete with little explodey warning bubbles] to having your car booted. Ugh. I am so irresponsible...)
posted by julthumbscrew at 4:29 PM on October 12, 2010

huh. I have one experience contesting a PPA ticket. It was for parking my motorcycle on the sidewalk in front of my house. I went down first thing in the morning, waited twenty minutes to see the official, said that I was doing maintenance on the bike and had only been inside long enough to collect my tools. She said: "Okay, your ticket is`canceled, have a nice day."

And that was it. So, I guess your experience may vary.
posted by 256 at 5:03 PM on October 12, 2010

Your chances are not terrific, and if it turns out that you bet wrong, you're going to get socked with months and months and months of fees. But if you are up for the challenge, stick to the first and the third tickets. The first one was a...misunderstanding, the third is likely not valid.

Forget contesting tickets two and four and just pay them ASAP -- you were actually guilty of the violation (even if that fourth ticket was rather a dick move.)

I feel your Philadelphian pain. I just got a $76 citation for blocking disabled persons access because I was allegedly blocking the curb cutout. Now, I was parked too close to the corner. I was overlapping the crosswalk. I was not actually blocking the curb cutout. But the latter ticket nets them an extra $25, and it's not worth the fight.
posted by desuetude at 5:37 PM on October 12, 2010

My wife had a PPA ticket overturned about 4 years ago, in a case where she was incorrectly issued a ticket. It looked like the officer hadn't read the sign right (or didn't care) and so she took photo prints of the sign and her car in the spot in question. It was pretty cut and dried, and her hearing lasted maybe two minutes. It sounds like your tickets aren't that simple, though, and I wouldn't be optimistic.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:20 PM on October 12, 2010

I got a PPA ticket... not overturned really. Forgiven. I basically made myself out to be a confused country mouse (not a terribly huge stretch). I explained that the sign was just so baffling. I was polite and respectful and told the nice man all about how they do not have that kind of sign where I come from.
It helped that I was, in fact, telling the truth.
He waived the fine and told me not to do it again.
I didn't.
It wasn't a big court room with a judge and the cast of Law and Order, just so you know. It was like going to the DMV. I made an appointment, sat in a waiting room, then went with a pleasant young man (an officer? A functionary of some sort. He was definitely not a judge.) We sat in a little room, he did some paperwork, recorded our conversation, and forgave the ticket.
posted by Adridne at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2010

I think it's fairly common, if not universal, that you can be ticketed several times for the same "parking event." I'm pretty sure I read that here on askme so standard disclaimers apply, but I definitely wouldn't count on being excused from ticket #3. I'd look in to the issue before I brought it to court. It can only help your chances with ticket #1 if you don't annoy the judge re: ticket #3.

How much does ticket #1 cost? I fought a parking ticket in a notoriously harsh jurisdiction. The meter was malfunctioning. The judge accepted my word and I didn't have to pay, but I saved $10 at the expense of several wasted hours. I learned my lesson.
posted by stuart_s at 8:17 PM on October 12, 2010

Well you are probably on the hook for tickets 2 and 4 because you were there more than twice as long, you ought to look and see whether the second ticket was issued more than two hours after the first, but the is probably irrelevant, bottom line is that you mess up and you should pay them.

Ticket 4, so the meter maids don't understand that your blinkers are special and allow you to double park? You broke the law, you knowingly broke the law, and you got caught, it doesn't matter that it was only for a few minutes, it doesn't matter that you were there and weren't paying attention, you are at fault here and you need to pay that one.

Ticket 1, is contestable, but it probably isn't worth your time honestly. Are you going to get notarized sworn affidavits from your neighbors? Are you going to get all of them to show up to traffic court with you?

All that being said, if you show up there is a decent chance you can get the total penalty knocked down a bit, or at least there is a better chance than if you do nothing.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:20 AM on October 13, 2010

In your cases you will have absolutely no luck. PPA sucks. They suck so bad they made a reality tv show about the annoyance they are (Parking Wars - new season just started if you need some TV to commiserate with you).

I once got 2 tickets on South Street in the same night for parking in a no parking zone even though my car was parked right in front of (and not overlapping into the "wrong" side) of 2 hour parking 8am-9pm sign. I parked there at 10. I lost even with pictures of my car and the signs. Just pay the PPA and consider it a tithe or something.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:12 AM on October 13, 2010

I recommend the high speed line from S Jersey to Phila in the future.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:13 AM on October 13, 2010

It's hard enough to contest PPA tickets that were actually incorrect, I wouldn't bother with ones you got for actually violating the parking rules. I do hate that they will ticket you for being somewhere over two hours when you left and came back, but they do and I guess at least they're consistent about it.

If the two tickets for the same offense were issued around the same time, there might be some hope. You can contest by mail.
posted by sepviva at 10:28 AM on October 13, 2010

Here's an article about some citizens trying to somehow fight the PPA. Their contact info is in here, and here's some additional interesting information about them.
posted by furious at 11:38 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Went ahead and paid the tickets--contesting would have meant missing work, and from the additional research I've done it sounds like even with photographic evidence and witness statements and whatnot it's difficult to do, much less when I've no evidence but my own word.
posted by schroedinger at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2010

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