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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How To Beat a Parking Ticket

While my first post is not related to accidents or injuries, it should be useful for most of the readers out there, except New Yorkers because they dont have cars.

How to beat a parking ticket
Dont get a Ticket:It may seem obvious but lots of time and energy can be saved if you take a little bit of effort to avoid getting a ticket in the first place. When you get out of your car take a moment to look around and read the signs. Make sure based on the meaning of the signage that parking is allowed when you are there.
Holidays: Be aware of which days count as holidays. Just because your company is closed for Simcha Torah, it does not mean the city recognizes Simcha Torah as an official holiday. Also parking is a city matter so state and federal holidays are irrelevant, it is only those holidays recognized by the city.
Time: If you are parking in an area which has a time limit, don’t park in the spot near the beginning or end of the time limit. For example, if you are in an area where the parking meters turn off at 6pm. I guarantee that the meter maids will check the meters between 5.45 and 6pm. If you park there and it is 5.55pm, feed the meter because there is a strong chance the meter maid will be there in the next 5 minutes. If it is 5pm, don’t put in 45minutes and hope they don’t check the last 15minutes. The city is smart and they know when and where they get the most violations.

Once you get a ticket: So you got a ticket, such is life. The first thing you should think is that meter maids make like $10/hour and they probably didn’t graduate highschool.

Check the ticket:Following in the metermaids are not genius’s look at the ticket. Make sure it is filled out correctly. Make sure the car liscence plate, VIN and time are all proper. If parking is allowed after 5pm and the ticket says 5.02pm. you win. If the ticket is made out for a different car, you win. One caveat, it must be a totally different car, wrong VIN, license, color, etc. If you drive a Blue BMW and the ticket says black, sorry you lose because it is not a defect sufficient to defeat the ticket.

Check the statute:On the ticket it will list the statute under which you are cited. It will be either a check box or a strange set of numbers. In order to check the statute, you will have to look up the statute, check online. Most cities have their city codes online.
Three sources to find the statute either: call the city code enforcement division and talk to them about getting a copy of the statute, go to the local library, or go to a local law school library.

Reading Statutes:This step will require you to play a bit of Matlock. Generally parking statutes, are pretty easy to read. What you are looking for is if there are any excuses available to you. Notice Statutes:Notice Statutes require the city to give notice to the population in order to enforce the citations. Commonly, handicapped spots, crosswalks and loading zones require notice. In Sacramento, the statute for a handicapped spot requires the city to provide two of three of the following types of notice, a painted curb, a sign above the parking space and a sign painted on the ground. If the space you parked in only had a painted curb, you win. Similarly, the crosswalk statute requires either a painted curb or visible white lines. Notice the use of the word or. It means one of the things must exist. If none of those things exist you win.

Visibility: Sometimes, a statute will use the term visibile or obvious. These have a connotation that the city must provide a sign that is clearly visible. A dilapidated and worn out sign is not sufficient for the purposes of the statute. If the signage is bad you may win.General Defenses:Here are some general ways of getting out of a ticket. They are not sure winners.

Notice:Again, if the situation you parked in is such that you could not see the parking prohibition in place, then you may have a shot at winning. If there were trees blocking your view or the sign was too worn out to see or construction was going on and they took down the sign. You may have a shot at winning.

Emergency: This one rarely works, you have to show a true emergency such as, my goofy brother fell on a box of swords and was bleeding to death and I had to rush him to the ER. I saw a house on fire and stopped to rescue a baby. Those are emergencies. The ice cream in my groceries is melting will not suffice.I wasn’t driving: This is a strange one and 50/50. If you can show your car was stolen, leased to a third party or you sold it then you are free. You must show you didn’t have control of the car at the date and time in question via a police report, contract or title transfer.

NEVER: Never say any of the following things: I didn’t know the law, It is not fair, I was on my way to move my car, I cant afford this ticket. None of these are defenses and hearing any of these excuses will be a sure sign that you are either bullshitting or just not worth helping. A 50/50 excuse, usually this wont work but may garner sympathy, “I have been doing this for years and I checked with the parking ticket officer and he said it was ok.” First, parking officers have no authority to grant you any immunity. Second, saying that you have been breaking the law for a long time does not make it ok to break the law on the occasion that you did. At the same time it may garner some sympathy though not a dismissal of the fine. If you can get a parking enforcement officer to write a note saying, “I gave him permission.” You might win, though I have never seen this scenario.

Preparing your Appeal: First, realize that unlike a criminal proceeding, you are not presumed innocent with regard to a parking citation. Instead, the issuance of a citation creates a presumption that you violated the law and the citation exists as evidence sufficient to maintain the fine against you. It is your duty to present better evidence which overcomes the presumption against you. Make a copy of everything and save a copy for your records.First steps: First make sure that you file your appeal with in the appeals window. Some cities may be nice but most are not and will actually charge you a penalty for paying late. Often you will be required to pay the fine and then appeal. Some cities will take a check, which they will not cash while the appeal is pending.

What to write: When writing your appeal, make sure to be clear, logical and provide evidence(see next section). I recommend the following format: Dear City Revenue Division.On Date and Time, I was cited for violating X city statute, 22.2.44. The statutute states, “cite the statute.”I am writing this letter in order to appeal this citation. I would like to request a hearing (by mail/in person). I believe this citation should be dismissed because specific reason it should be dismissed(lack of notice, emergency.)I have enclosed photographs A-X which show the area in question. As you can see in photograph A, the sign was extremely faded and therefore I could not see the regulations printed on the sign. Additionally, Photograph B shows, blah. Photograh C shows, blah. Based on the statute under which I was cited, this citation should be dismissed because…Make sure in this section you are very clear and polite in explaining why the citation is defective.In conclusion, I believe this citation should be dismissed because based on the circumstance shown in the photographs and the requirements of the statute. Thank you very much for your time.

Evidence: Obviously, you need to bring evidence, it should be clear and relevant. You should definitely submit photographs of the exact spot you were parked in. additionally, you should include photos of the relevant exonerating evidence. If it is a defective sign, get lots of pictures of the sign taken from a few angles. If it is an issue with the curb, make sure to get the curb in the photo. The lighting should be clear and one of the photos should be taken from far away so relative positions of things can be established. With that in mind, make sure to take the photographs in a manner which is beneficial to you. If you say you were parked 30ft from the fire hydrant, don’t take a photo with a ruler showing you were 15 ft away. Rather take a photo to make the 15ft look like 30.

Evidence II: When I was working as a judge, I liked when someone brought a map and placed marks on the map for all the relevant landmarks. has an excellent utility which lets you view a satellite view of an area and then print it out. Print out the map and then show on the map where everything is. Put an X where your Car is. Put an S for the sign or O for where a photos was taken.

Evidence III: If you have a witness, have them write a letter explaining their role in exonerating you. Its far more persuasive than saying, my friend said I am innocent. If you speak with the guy who gave you the ticket, get his badge number so you can find him later. Most parking tickets don’t require the parking officer to identify themselves.

The Hearing: After you send the letter, you may request an in person hearing. Hear are some hints to success.
Dress nice: No need for a suit or a tux but do leave your Scorpions/Winger Tour ’87 shirt at home. Throw on some khaki’s and a polo shirt at least so you don’t look ridiculous. Also, shower.

Be prepared: bring 2 copies of everything, even the stuff you mailed to the city. That way you can give a copy to them and save a copy for yourself. Also take a few minutes before you arrive and review everything so you know what you are going to be talking about.

Be succinct and deferential: You will probably be asked to tell your story, be polite and tell it in 3-5 minutes. Tell it well and when the hearing officer asks questions listen to his question and answer him clearly.

Questions: Many of the Hearing Officers will have read the record in advance and know exactly what they want to hear. When they ask you a question, they are trying to elicit a specific response. Make sure to answer the questions honestly but in your favor. If the officer asks you “how far was your car from the hydrant?” If it is obvious the car is 5 feet away, say 5 feet. If on the other hand, it looks like the car is 25-30ft and you know 30 ft is the standard, say 30 ft.

Afterwards: generally after the hearing it will be several weeks before you get a decision in the mail. If you lose your administrative hearing, you often are permitted to appeal to the courts. If you chose this route you may be charged an administrative fee from $15-$50. Be aware, it may be worthwhile to appeal a $250 ticket but a $35 ticket may not be worth the effort to save $10. I have no experience with handling tickets which have gone to the courts except that there is evidence that they are often either overturned or the city will make a deal with you and reduce the fine.

Parking Meters: Expired Meter violations often follow a special set of rules. If you are claiming a broken meter, you must submit proof of the meter being broken. Take a picture or video(camera phone) of you trying to feed the meter. It may cost you 25cents to demonstrate. When you submit a broken meter claim, the city will go check the meter often with in 2-3 weeks. If they go check the meter and it is broken, the citation will be administratively dismissed and you will get your money back. There is a common occurrence where a meter will be broken, and you get a citation. Then later that day, the person who empties the change from the meters and cleans out the meter. Sometimes this person will actually do something to fix the meter or just emptying it will clear a jam in the throat of the meter. The problem is, you just lost your proof. Claiming the meter fairy fixed the problem will not hold up. This is why you have to get a picture or video of the broken meter ASAP and not wait a week.

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