Dishonest use of a handicapped parking placard
September 2, 2013 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I found out a classmate of mine has been parking for free at our university (in the US) for the past year using a relative's handicapped parking placard. What are my options for getting him into the maximum amount of hot water? Bonus question: we're in a licensed profession -- is this something our licensing body would want to know about?
posted by CutaneousRabbit to Law & Government (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you really want to be a guy who gets someone in trouble, possibly even affecting their career long-term, over something like this? It seems awfully petty. Unless this person is horrible in some other significant way and really deserves it somehow, I would just let this go as Not Your Business. Yeah, he sucks. But if you take action you suck too.
posted by something something at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


No to the second part. You don't ruin someone's future career over something like this. Don't match shitty with shitty.

As to your first question, parking at your university is bound to be run by some type of organization and you could report the number plate and let them deal with it.
posted by Namlit at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Best answer: It is not petty to my friend with MS, or another friend with COPD. It is an expensive offense with a large fine attached. OP does not mention what the licensed field is, but the cheater sounds like a disgrace to the profession.
Before seeking legal punishment for the cheater, can you talk to him about how inappropriate his behavior is?
posted by Cranberry at 12:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


Best answer: I believe your only objective should be to get your classmate to stop stealing reserved parking spaces that he has no right to use. That's probably done by reporting his license number to your campus parking office (or whoever administers this sort of thing). But what happens beyond that isn't your business.
posted by scody at 12:25 PM on September 2, 2013 [28 favorites]


If you're interested in getting him in the maximum amount of hot water, you might also out him to your other classmates, department faculty and staff, etc.

This would, of course, suggest to your classmates, faculty and staff that you're someone who is interested in getting people in the maximum amount of hot water for unauthorized parking in handicapped parking spaces. And, if there were further legal or professional repercussions, your classmate would have good reason to suspect that you were the source of the complaint.

You're okay with that, right?
posted by box at 12:37 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Best answer: In my state regardless of whether the space is on private property, it's a police matter. Which is to say, you'd want to call campus police if your school has them or the local PD. This is like a parking ticket and not something that goes on your "permanent record". It's just a really, really expensive parking ticket. like >$500 as i remember.

I'm not certain, but i think there's also a separate fine for using someone elses placard. I only remember this because a friend growing up had a younger brother who was disabled and his mom used to abuse the placard when she wasn't around. And this was a big deal that i remember several people going on about "oh shit you can't do that, that's a big deal" and not just in a moral sense, but that it was an additional fine.

I also absolutely second box that if you're trying to do this anonymously while also trying to cause some huge explosion on their side of the fence, you should really think about that a bit. It might not go as smoothly as you think, and you should probably just stop at an anonymous police report.
posted by emptythought at 12:46 PM on September 2, 2013


Best answer: I, too, work in a licensed profession, and once upon a time I worked in a building where official business was conducted, so to speak, with a coworker who did the exact same thing. It was a small building, and an even smaller group of us who learned what was happening.

In that instance, the solution was a private conversation between the offender and the most senior of our group, but not an actual "supervisor." The thinking was, (1) this is potentially harmful behavior that needs to stop immediately, and (2) it's selfish behavior that will ruin this person's reputation in a relatively small professional community, but (3) we are not interested in pursuing "the maximum amount of hot water" for a variety of reasons including but not limited to that's just not the type of people we wanted to be.

In a parallel universe, if we had wanted to be that kind of people, then I suppose the offending behavior could have been reported farther up the employment ladder; a letter could have been sent to our licensing authority; local police could have been notified while the car was parked; the registry of motor vehicles could have been notified of the placard's misuse; and if a school had been relevant to the equation, somebody could have contacted a dean of students and/or the school's career office.

Thinking back on my life and career, I don't recall any instances where I feel regret and wish that I'd tried harder to get another person into deeper, hotter water. Your mileage may vary. Good luck with your schooling.
posted by cribcage at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Best answer: My wife is handicapped, and has been since birth. When she was younger and her mom would see someone doing this, she (her mom) would write "Parking Pig" on their windshield in lipstick.

My wife is still mortified by this memory.
posted by jon1270 at 12:55 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: Thank you to everyone acting as the voice of moderation. It infuriates me to think that people I know who rely on these spots have suffered because of this. However, I'll let campus parking take care of this. Thanks again, everyone, for cooling my jets.
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 1:06 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


The colleague is a dick and I would call him/her on it. But don't you be a dick too...he/she isn't drowning puppies. Get it in perspective. Whisper the request to cut it out and leave it. Never mention it again. You will come off as a whiny baby. Secondary thought: not every handicap is visible to the naked eye.
posted by Lornalulu at 1:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just to add another voice: yes, report it to campus police.

If that doesn't work (and give it a little time, don't just escalate next week or something!) then and only then report the misuse to your state's DMV, preferably with the placard number and any other identifying info --- many hangtags include the name of the person they were issued to, for instance.

I too am ticked off by people who do this, including a former coworker of mine who used her mother's card everywhere the coworker went "because it's such a hassle to find close-in parking if I don't do it". Jerks.
posted by easily confused at 1:31 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm really surprised by the number of people here who don't seem to think this is much of a big deal. It's awful behavior and definitely should be reported to authorities.
posted by Houstonian at 2:05 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


if you want to make a dent, tell him how great it is to actually be able to use his own feet, walking from a far-away lot to where he needs to be.
posted by Namlit at 2:09 PM on September 2, 2013


Yeah, I think it's awful, too. And speaks so eloquently to this colleague's character. I think you can freely share this information with anyone in your department when the subject arises. "The only thing I know about him is that he uses a fake handicap sticker to take a parking space from those who really need it." Everyone can draw their own conclusions.
posted by raisingsand at 2:14 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


This infuriates me. When my mom was still alive and in a wheelchair, sometimes my parents weren't able to find a single handicapped spot at their large supermarket which had quite a few of them. I am quite sure that scumbags like your coworker who weren't disabled were using them. I would have loved to have called them out on it.

With that said, I don't think I'd ruin someone's career over it. I'd go just up to that point, though.
posted by amro at 2:16 PM on September 2, 2013


Your classmate needs to learn both from classes and from other things going on in life. Facing consequences for this kind of awful selfish and inconsiderate behavior will hopefully be a good learning experience.
posted by Dansaman at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does the relative know...? If yes presumably your classmate comes from a whole family of scumbags...

Is it by chance expired? I have one and I have: one. Renewals come with instructions to destroy the expiring one, etc. The permit is -- here, anyway -- supposed to travel with the cripple, not the car; you're not issued multiples of them. I'm having a hard time seeing how your classmate got this without the consent of the relative, in which case, please throw the relative under the bridge, too. Report it to the people who give them out; that's a pretty big abuse of the system.
posted by kmennie at 2:23 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found out a classmate of mine has been parking for free at our university (in the US) for the past year using a relative's handicapped parking placard.

I agree that you should alert the parking officers by giving them his license plate number. However, also ask yourself if you are sure that what you've heard isn't a rumor. Did the co-worker or his relative actually tell you about it, or have you just heard it through the grapevine? Some people have invisible disabilities, and it's easy for gossip to swirl around their actually legitimate use of handicap spots. Alerting the parking office will be a good way to sort out whether or not the placard is legit.
posted by third rail at 2:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yeah, it's one thing if you somehow know for certain that this is what's going on. But as my wife points out whenever the subject comes up, you really don't want to get into the business of taking drastic action based on guesses. Guessing about this will soon have you telling people they're not entitled to accommodations because they don't *look* sufficiently handicapped, which is itself seriously over the line of acceptable behavior.
posted by jon1270 at 3:19 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am disabled. What I would do is publicly harangue him, shame him, call him an asshole, etc. Paper trail is imho not the best use of valuable time and energy.
posted by skbw at 3:28 PM on September 2, 2013


I think you can freely share this information with anyone in your department when the subject arises. "The only thing I know about him is that he uses a fake handicap sticker to take a parking space from those who really need it." Everyone can draw their own conclusions.

If I were told about this in the way you describe, I'd ask the talebearer where he got his information. If it were based on hearsay, I would draw my own (decidedly negative) conclusions about the person who thought it appropriate to spread rumors about a classmate who may indeed be using a handicap placard for legitimate reasons.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:30 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Doing that would be a big shitty deal on classmate's part. However, accusing them is also high-stakes. You'd better be absolutely sure you're right. What if they have an invisible disability and lie about using a relative's placard for whatever of their own reasons? Etc. Obviously there's room for Occam's Razor, but you really want to be sure before stepping into the situation like this.
posted by threeants at 3:38 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is not petty to my friend with MS, or another friend with COPD. It is an expensive offense with a large fine attached. OP does not mention what the licensed field is, but the cheater sounds like a disgrace to the profession.

I agree. At some point, the behavior is repugnant BECAUSE it is so petty. If you can't afford parking, you can't afford a car.

Before seeking legal punishment for the cheater, can you talk to him about how inappropriate his behavior is?

Yes, absolutely. This is worth a "not cool, dude" conversation.
posted by gjc at 3:54 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will freely admit this sort of thing is a major pet peeve of mine to the point where I may not be the Voice of Reason. Nothing enrages me more than that casual sense of scofflaw, "rules don't apply to me" entitlement which so often seems to characterize people who slide right on up the ladder with it into privileged positions in society.

So yeah. I wouldn't say anything to him, but I'd call the campus police and the DMV and maybe these guys and once he was fined, I might even drop an anonymous note to the Bar or whoever your governing body is, (i.e. once there was a chance that a record had been created that might be uncovered in a background check.)

However, I'm not saying this is right. I know I'm a little unhinged about this sort of thing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:00 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some people have invisible disabilities, and it's easy for gossip to swirl around their actually legitimate use of handicap spots. Alerting the parking office will be a good way to sort out whether or not the placard is legit.

I want to third this. I have a handicap tag even though I look fine. I don't park in handicap spaces unless I am in a lot of pain.

It's easy to get tags in some states where they are given out freely. He might have it legitimately.
posted by vincele at 4:03 PM on September 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


(And yes I will modify my response to say that I wouldn't do any of those things unless I was absolutely sure the tag wasn't legitimately his.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:07 PM on September 2, 2013


The law is an imperfect instrument and turning him in may have ramifications beyond or falling short of what you expect. I think you may (and possibly should) regret doing so; talking to him directly is the more honorable course in the case of a non-violent offense. Many colleges and universities have honor boards where students are brought before their peers to discuss infractions to school rules; consider this option if you are unwilling to speak to him yourself.
posted by Morrigan at 5:27 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


i would just tell him to stop parking there and if he doesn't that you will report him to the campus parking. that is all you need to do. i certainly wouldn't do anything to jeopardize his career prospects. i'm glad you've calmed down because your attitude seems a bit off the charts. someday you may be in need of mercy yourself so it's wise to treat others how you'd like to be treated.
posted by wildflower at 6:04 PM on September 2, 2013


I have a great deal of experience in Campus Parking. I am not your Campus Parking person.

At my campus, Parking would want to know this but would not take your word for it (anonymous reports are not allowed because that leads to people lying to try to get people they don't like towed). You would be asked to provide the plate number, vehicle description, and location.

If a person does turn out to be using someone else's placard at my school, they would receive a citation for parking illegally in a Handicapped space, they would be towed, and the placard would be confiscated. (We're a state school, though - it's very likely the police would have to be involved elsewhere.) There has been talk of notifying the Dean of Students office about fraud-type violations, but at the moment that's as far as it would go.

As someone with an invisible disability and a placard of my own, tread carefully - but I hope that if this person is using someone else's placard it's taken as seriously on your campus as it is on ours.
posted by camyram at 8:20 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


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