Can I win this, and how?
January 6, 2012 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Defending a parking ticket appeal in court -- is my evidence sufficient, and should I mail it in or attend court in person?

Hi, all. I didn't see anything like this specific question asked before so I hope it's okay (I've never AskMefi'd before).

I received a parking ticket on 12/6 on a residential street. I supposedly received this ticket because I was parked in an area outside my apartment where 'No parking this date: 12/6 from 7 am to 3 pm'.

However. These signs were not in place on 12/5 when I parked on the street at about 6 pm. I am very positive of this. Additionally, I loan my car to an ex-boyfriend so that he can drive to his night-shift job. He left at about 2 am on 12/6 and saw no signs, and returned to the same spot at about 7:30 am, seeing no signs. To be fair, he is not the most observant but I believe him--the car was parked right next to a post where the signs were later posted.

When I came down to the car at 10:30 am to go to school the signs were up and I had a ticket. The entire two city blocks of street, aside for maybe 3 spaces, still had cars parked. They all had tickets. A neighbor came out at the same time I was looking at my ticket and moved his (ticketed) car from the street to his driveway, where I'm sure he would have parked if the signs had been up the previous day. When I asked him he said I should just send in a letter because it happens all the time.

The ticket included hardly any information. I was ticketed for "Date posted 12/6/11 no parking 7 am-3pm Blotter (?) PS 246 (?). The handwriting is hard to read. There was no fine listed. On the back it let me know that I could schedule a hearing to contest the ticket and where to mail it.

The actions I have taken thus far are as follows:
- Called and spoke to a very unhelpful woman whose response to my story and my inquiry about how this all works was just to tell me to mail in the ticket to the address listed. She was also not interested in telling me how much the fine for the initial ticket was, and I should have pressed the issue but did not. She also did not want to provide any advice re: the actual court proceedings.
- Scanned the ticket for my records.
- Sent the ticket to the provided address along with a written explanation of why I was contesting it including all information above. Also included my return address, because while common sense nothing on the ticket suggested I should.

I now have a court date coming up mid/late January. The announcement likewise included almost no helpful information aside from the date/time/room I need to go to.

I do not know how much money the ticket was, and additionally if I lose the appeal I do not know how much I will be charged for that. I didn't think to ask about it, which was admittedly dumb.

The only 'evidence' I have for my case is my testimony, my ex's testimony, and I am considering bothering the man across the street who came out to his car for his testimony.

I have received one parking ticket within the city before and paid it promptly.

So my question(s) are as follows:
- Is my testimony and my ex's testimony sufficient to fight this ticket and win? Should I bother my neighbor for his testimony?
- What format would be best to have these testimonies? I can record them on my iPod (video or audio) but I was planning on just having written testimonies (handwritten or typed? obviously with signatures). I don't know if I could easily show video in the courtroom.
- Should I go to the proceedings? I have the option of mailing in the relevant materials at latest 5 days prior to the court date. This is an incredibly busy time for me and I will have to pay at least $5 to park downtown. If I don't need to go I really don't want to.
- What should I expect in court? As in, what should I wear, what should I be prepared to answer, is there anything beyond the testimonies I should bring, etc.? I really have absolutely no idea, but I don't have a lot of nice clothes and can scrounge up something 'business casual' at best.

Please note: I understand and acknowledge that none of you are my lawyer. I'm only asking for general information or information from personal experience. I have never been involved in something like this before and so have absolutely no clue how these things typically go.

Thanks in advance for your replies.
posted by six-or-six-thirty to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless you can actually line up supporting testimony from other people who saw the lack of signage, it's going to come down to your word against a police officer's, and that's an argument the police almost always win.

If, that is, the officer actually shows up. If he doesn't feel like the court appearance is worth his time, you'll win by virtue of the simple fact that your side is the only one being presented in court. So yes, you definitely want to appear in person if you want to beat the ticket.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2012

Seconding HZSF: I don't actually think it is possible to win in court -- any court -- without showing up.
posted by gauche at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2012

I'm not a police officer, but from everything I've read, officers are well compensated for their court time, and penalize if they routinely don't show up to hearings, so I'd strongly recommend against a strategu that assumed them being a no-show.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:00 AM on January 6, 2012

Showing up in court is part of their job. The police officer will be there. In many jurisdictions, if you take a traffic ticket to court and lose, they also tack on court fees. A parking ticket is not a moving violation, and should not have any impact on your insurance rates now or in the future. If you don't have solid corroborating evidence to support your story, you will almost certainly lose, might pay extra for court fees, and maybe burn a vacation day from work. I don't think recorded statements will be admissible. If you are admitting evidence into court, the state has a right to cross examine. They can't do that with a recording.

Is all that worth what is probably a $50 or so ticket?
posted by COD at 10:06 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Looks like I'll be going to the hearing, then. Thank you all for helping me make that decision.

... Is all that worth what is probably a $50 or so ticket?

When you really need the $50 you have, yes. I don't have many $50 to lose. I guess I don't really have an option now anyway given that I have a court date.

I don't think recorded statements will be admissible. If you are admitting evidence into court, the state has a right to cross examine.

If this is the case, then why would mailed-in evidence even be an option? Can anyone clarify this?
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:22 AM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: Definitely show up for the court date. Before that time, however, contact whatever local office constitutes the "city hall" for where this apartment building is located (could be, for example, the Department of Public Works). Find out the date(s) and time(s) these particular parking signs were actually erected and request a written confirmation of some sort. (If you go to court and say that "I called the DPW and they told me that...." the judge/magistrate will dismiss it as hearsay. You need written documentation.) Take those documents with you to your hearing.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:57 AM on January 6, 2012

Response by poster: Actually, I do feel the need to point out that I am not denying that the signs were present when I received the ticket.

I am only attempting to defend the case that the signs were not posted with adequate notice (i.e. they were only posted immediately before or after 7 am... as in, less than 15 minutes notice).

So I wouldn't be contradicting the policeperson's statement that the signs were there when I received the ticket, only that the signs were not posted with adequate time for people to move their cars.

I'm not sure if this helps clarify or provides any further options.

Oriole Adams: Thank you for that advice, that is exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for. I am trying to hunt down where I can request that information now and not having the best luck but I'll keep at it.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:27 AM on January 6, 2012

You may want to look into exactly what you'll be facing at this hearing. Here in MA, contesting a traffic/parking ticket no longer looks like what many people expect. You sit down with a court officer and a representative from the police - the ticketing officer does not have to be present, you do not see a judge, it's all very informal. The PD rep basically recaps the infraction, you're offered an opportunity to refute or explain, and the court officer decides what to do. This can be a dismissal in full or part, a reduction in the fine, or nothing at all. If you disagree with the ruling, you can then pay an outrageous fee to take the matter before a judge.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 12:09 PM on January 6, 2012

Response by poster: Just a wrap-up for anyone who may have been interested in knowing how this turned out:

After calling the correct district (which took 3 days of active calls) I was told that the temporary no parking order had indeed been entered into the police blotter 24 hours in advance (as per law) and was told that it was posted on the street "on December 6th", presumably 14 hours in advance of when it went into effect on the 7th, although I did not/could not get an actual time. For one, this already went against my testimony, and to be honest I kind of gave up here because I was tired of calling and talking to people.

So, in the end my 'evidence' was as follows: my testimony, my ex's testimony. I did not bother my neighbor for his and had mostly resigned myself to failure.

I went to court today. My ex actually had to drive in circles around the courthouse because despite leaving 25 minutes early we couldn't find a parking spot. This meant that he was not there to give his testimony, so it was just me.

Small room, ushered in by a woman who was facilitating all of the traffic appeals. In the end it was just me and the man who saw these cases, no police officer. While I waited to be seen I did not see any police officers enter or leave the room, so this may not be uncommon.

The man was incredibly nice, heard my story, and asked very gently if I had any other evidence to offer him. I told him the types of evidence I'd tried to get but had failed. In the end, and without much argument or even hesitation, he let decided the ticket would be dismissed.

On top of just generally being a good human being, he also offered me some advice should such a thing happen again. Even if the sign is not accurate as to when it is posted, take a photo of it and the street with as much evidence as you can (visible presence of other cars, etc.). He actually said to me "take a photo, or just take the sign."

So basically, to parrot everyone else's helpful advice, always personally attend your appeal. And thank your courtperson if they are even halfway decent to you, because they are more than likely overworked from what I've seen, and potentially under-appreciated.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:49 PM on January 20, 2012

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