Street parking got you in trouble again? But even parking enforcement gets it wrong sometimes. If you think the ticket is invalid, don’t wait around to contest it. Most cities have similar rules for disputing parking tickets. Here are a few tips to make sure you get a favorable outcome.
If you are reading this, a parking ticket was left on your windshield not too long ago. And you are sure it’s not your fault this time. Of course, parking officers also make mistakes, and you can contest that ticket. Never been in this situation before and are not sure what to do next? We got you.
Parking tickets don’t come cheap. Unless it’s quite clear that there is a parking violation, you want to skip the expense. Could you have avoided it in the first place? Yes, by keeping your car off the streets and in a parking lot. Especially when you aren’t sure how long you’ll be away. But sometimes, it’s just a quick stop, and you either lose track of time or miss a sign. And if that’s not the case and you swear you covered all the rules, checked the meter, read the signs, moved the car on time – it’s time to dispute a ticket.
How to avoid parking citations
Step one is to choose an affordable parking lot or garage space whenever you are unsure of the parking time needed. Most cities have short and strict time limits on street parking, and failing to move your car in time is one of the most common parking violations.
Next on the list is ignoring the posted signs. Even when you have years of experience driving around a city, a quick look at street parking signs will save you from unintended parking violations. Temporary restrictions usually play spoilsport. You can also catch these by following parking authorities on social media or downloading parking apps for real-time updates.
Being aware of a city’s parking rules is a basic requirement. If you are visiting for the first time or driving around an unfamiliar city, assume there are rules specific to that area. For example, angle in/angle out parking in cities like San Francisco or snow emergency routes in cities like Boston.
Street cleaning restrictions are also a common parking violation that leads to citations. In some cities, you can park right after the sweeping trucks pass. But technically, it is illegal to park on the street during restricted cleaning hours. Parking enforcement officers cannot always keep track of the cleaning trucks and refer to the restricted hours to issue parking tickets.
Many cities now have useful resources for drivers, such as parking apps to keep track of space availability, meter payment, and other services. Use these resources to reduce the risk of getting ticketed. And remember, a secure parking lot or garage space is usually cheaper than a parking ticket.
When to fight a parking ticket
The obvious reason to contest a parking ticket is when you can prove there was no parking violation. You can also dispute an illegible ticket or one with incorrect or missing information. The officer could have noted down the wrong license plate number, make/model of the car, or date/time/place of the violation. Here are a few other reasons to fight a parking ticket:
- Missing / incorrect / invisible parking sign. In some cases, sign visibility does not excuse a parking violation. For example, during winters in NYC, a ‘Snow Route. No Standing’ sign or a fire hydrant covered by snow is not considered a defense.
- Cited for parking permit violation, when the valid permit was displayed properly. Most cities have specific instructions on how to display your permits. Make sure you follow these rules.
- If your car was stolen or if you were not the vehicle owner when the ticket was issued. You’ll have to prove it with relevant documents.
- You were overcharged for a parking violation or issued an incorrect ticket.
- If the parking meter malfunctions.
- Parking enforcement officer fails to print or sign their name legibly.
How to dispute a parking ticket effectively
If you plan to dispute parking tickets, do not pay the fine for the alleged infraction to avoid late fees. Reversing the payment is complicated. Proceed with the dispute quickly so that you have enough time to pay after the hearing if needed. The appeal cutoff time is mentioned on parking tickets – make sure you deal with it within this window. You must also check for updates or changes on the official parking websites.
You can dispute a ticket online, by mail, or in person. Many cities have official parking apps and websites that make the appealing process easier. Keep it professional at all stages, irrespective of how you appeal the alleged parking violation. Keep the tracking number and return receipt for future reference. If you do not get a reply within a few days, contact the parking authority to confirm receipt of your letter or online appeal.
When you prepare to dispute a ticket, keep these tips in mind:
Identify the statute
You have already won if the ticket doesn’t specify the statute violated. It is usually mentioned on the ticket – look for numbers or a checked box. Go online to understand the law better and verify that the ticket is valid. Do not rush through this step, as loopholes in the statute can easily get you off the hook.
Before you leave the place where the ticket was issued, make sure to collect all evidence that supports your claim. Take pictures of the parked car, any curb/road markings, relevant parking signs, parking meter location, and the display screen if malfunctioning.
Present the Case Clearly
Parking tickets may have a space to write down your appeal. However, it is better to attach the appeal on a separate sheet – keep it brief and respectful. Make sure to include the date and time when the ticket was issued. You can also mention the statute and clearly explain why the ticket is invalid.
Prepare well for the hearing
You may not need a hearing if the evidence presented is valid. But if you are called for a hearing, take at least two copies of the evidence you have collected and arrive at the court on time. In some cities, hearings are also conducted via phone or online. When speaking, keep it polite, brief, and clear.
Do not fake it or argue
If you are found lying or faking evidence, the court will order extra fines and any other fees applicable. Do not use excuses such as you were unaware of the law or late to move the vehicle. Admitting that you can’t afford a ticket may not help either. Don’t say anything that suggests that you have got away with similar infractions.