Fight the Parking Power:

Several weeks, I got a $350 parking ticket from the UCLA parking people. The offense: Parking partly in a handicapped spot.

Except I wasn't parked partly in a handicapped spot. There were no handicapped spots in the row in which I was parked (a row the number of which was helpfully noted on the ticket).

Naturally, I contested the ticket, by sending a letter pointing out the error. Shortly afterwards, I got the response: They had reviewed the ticket and concluded that I was indeed guilty, but as a courtesy they were lowing the fee to $42.

Well, $42 isn't much to fight about, but I was annoyed; so I contested the ticket further, this time with photographs. (I had assumed none were needed, since I thought they'd have a map of the parking structure, with various kinds of spots marked — or, even if they needed to physically check the spots themselves, they'd prefer to do that instead of trusting any photographs I might send.) Yesterday, I got the response:

Based on the information presented in your appeal, most importantly the photographs you provided of the location where your vehicle was parked and the adjoining parking spaces[,] I am dismissing [the] citation ... and a refund ... will be processed and mailed to the addressed listed....

As a result of your investigation and the evidence you provided for your case, the UCLA Parking Enforcement Officers will be taking photographs for all violations as noted above....

As you might gather, I was delighted; mistakes happen, but it's great to see that some organizations are willing to own up to them. A few thoughts:

1. I do hope UCLA is systematically changing its policies to require that parking enforcers take photos: This should reduce the number of errors they make, and it should be more reliable than counting on the parkers' own photos. My case didn't require reliance on the challenger's candor, since the row number listed on the ticket proved my innocence; but say that there was a handicapped spot in that row, and I was partly parked in it — if I were dishonest, I could have just moved my car and then take a photo showing me firmly in my own spot. Only by taking their own photos can the parking people be fairly confident that the photo represents what was actually going on when the ticket was given.

2. Sometimes, you can fight the parking people and win. Don't just assume that, once an error is made, an organization will refuse to acknowledge it.

3. Some cynics might conclude that an average UCLA student — or a visitor — wouldn't get as good a response as a tenured faculty member would. I expect that, human nature being what it is, there is some such effect in most organizations (especially in cases where, unlike in this case, credibility questions are involved). But I have no reason to think that it's all-or-nothing: I'd think that organizations that are willing to admit error in a professor's case are at least not unlikely to do the same in others' cases. So take the time and effort to defend yourself, even when you're up against the dreaded Parking Establishment.

UPDATE: A reader asks whether I was parked across the line into an ordinary stall, and the parking person's error might have been giving me a ticket for misrecording this as parking partly in a handicapped stall. This might well have been the case; I don't remember for sure now, because that's not what the dispute was about, but it's certainly possible. (I sometimes park a bit across the line, if the cars are parked in a way to make that leave more space all around, but I never park partly or entirely in handicapped spots.)

If the ticket had been just for parking partly across the line, I obviously wouldn't have fought it if it were accurate, and I probably wouldn't have been able to prevail even if it were inaccurate. (If they had told me they were reducing the ticket to $42 because their records reflected that I was parked partly in a nonhandicapped spot, I probably would have taken their word on it; but none of their communications to me made any such claim.) In any case, I didn't discuss this possibility, because it didn't seem relevant to the questions of whether I should have been ticketed for $350 for parking partly in a handicapped spot, and whether it's worth fighting such tickets; but in case you find it relevant to evaluating the story (as the reader seemed to think), I thought I'd note it and apologize for the lack of completeness.

George Lyon (mail):
About the only thing the DC government does well is give parking tickets. About 15 years ago, I got a flat tire on the way to work. I pulled to the side of the street to change it and a DC parking enforcement officer slapped a ticket on my windshield while I was changing the tire. I wrote a five page brief to the effect that a disabled car was not a parked car and mailed it in with my ticket. (Yes, I was quite peeved.) A couple of weeks later I received a response that my ticket had been dismissed.
5.7.2007 3:22pm
Justin (mail):
It also appears, unless I am missing something, that a beaurocratic error of somewhere between $302 and $350 has occurred in your favor.
5.7.2007 3:23pm
Abdul (mail):
What are you billing UCLA for attorneys fees?
5.7.2007 3:28pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Of the two law school I have degrees from, one was extremely zealous about issuing and collecting parking tickets. I paid them, with a note saying, "if you choose to cash this check it's the last dime this school will ever get from me." They did, and it was. I get to tell this story about once a year to the alumni association.
There's a guy named Robert Gordon who runs a 'common law law school', who suggests that parking tickets are a relatively low cost way to learn about due process and courtroom procedure in theory and practice.
5.7.2007 3:30pm
Abdul: it would appear either $308 or $350 :-)
5.7.2007 3:33pm
Mark H.:
How deep into a Kafkaesque world will Eugene eventually find himself if he cashs the $350 check? :-)
5.7.2007 3:37pm
jallgor (mail):
I have contested a number of parking tickets in NYC because they make it very easy to do on-line. If you are going to use any evidence like pictures you have to mail it in. In 4 out of 5 of the times I contested a ticket I simply never heard from them again. Some of these were several years ago. I have always heard that NY is years behind on enforcing parking tickets and I am waiting for a letter to come some day telling me I owe all kinds of interest and penalties.
5.7.2007 3:43pm
jonvw (mail):
I once received a parking ticket in the mail from the City of Chicago for parking my car next to a fire hydrant. At the time the ticket was issued, though, my car was not even in Chicago. In fact, I had never been to the neighborhood where I was alleged to have parked. To add to this, I received a notice of the citation six months after the illegal parking took place.

I tried to contest the ticket, but I found it difficult to provide any evidence that my car was parked anywhere else. Since I didn't know about it until six months after the ticket, I couldn't remember where my car actually was at that time. I ended up paying the ticket when they sent a collections agency after me. I told this story to a number of my friends, and almost all of the Chicago-based people had seen this happen, either to a friend or themselves.

My sense was that the contesting process is not very friendly to laymen, and I didn't want to hire a lawyer for a $100 ticket, even though that is a non-trivial amount of money. What is a person who finds himself in such a predicament to do?
5.7.2007 3:45pm
When I was in college we had a very interesting system for reviewing parking ticket appeals. If fact I thought the way the process worked was very strange. Basically the judicial branch of the student government was given the parking ticket review authority. One "justice" was selected at the beginning of the year to take responsibility for picking up the tickets, reviewing the appeals, and then submitting his/her recommendations to the entire student court. Usually the court didn't care about the week-to-week situation and would rubber stamped whatever the "ticket" justice had decided. The only time that changed was if a member of the court or a student government official had appealed a ticket. Then the court would intervene to either reduce the ticket amount or take it off the student's record altogether.

The reason I know so much about the process is because I actually was put in charge of parking tickets my senior year in college. That year taught me a lot about practical politics, patronage, and trading favors. For most of the year I was the most powerful student on campus. I even had professors coming up to me asking for a favor in a parking appeal. I thought I was fair until female students started coming up to me asking for parking favors. Not sure if they had some mind control powers or if I was just being a stupid 19/20 year old guy, but most of the time I would give them whatever they wanted.
5.7.2007 3:49pm
M (mail):
I have contested quite a lot of parking tickets. (Only when I thought there was legitimate reason to do so, of course.) In at least some cases, as in Eugene's, the ticket itself contained all the information needed to show that the ticket wasn't right. These were easily dismissed. In other cases I was arguably in violation though there was some good reason for it (I'd just moved and mis-read the alternate side of the street parking rule for street cleaning, for example.) In such cases (in NY State) my ticket was always reduced. So, if you think you were not in violation or there was mitigating circumstances do contest the ticket- my experience is that it often is worth the time.
5.7.2007 3:50pm
Dave N (mail):
I note that EV didn't mention he paid the fine at all--under protest or otherwise--though the communication from the Parking Establishment does seem to reference it.

So I agree with Mark H. and the other posters. If $308 has already been refunded and another $350 has been sent, my suggestion is that EV back away, very slowly, lest he be fighting with the Parking Establishment about the "overpayment" for the remainder of his tenure at UCLA.

I am also surprised that EV assumed that the Parking Establishment actually had a marked parking map to review. Assuming that fact assumes facts not necessarily in evidence, particularly when dealing with bureaucrats of any kind.

Finally, I am heartened that UCLA will be taking pictures--as all parking enforcement agencies should. With digital photography being relatively inexpensive, a camera equipped with a date and a timestamp would settle 90%+ of all parking disputes.
5.7.2007 3:52pm
A picture requirement would be outstanding. My freshman year of undergrad I lived in a dorm with a little known parking lot on the back side of the building that was poorly marked, so usually open. There were about 5 faculty spots for staff that worked in the building. I got two tickets that year for being in faculty spots that I was simply nowhere near. When I'd submit my appeal, they said that they couldn't accept my photo evidence because "I could have moved my vehicle" and taken the picture.
5.7.2007 3:55pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The city of Detroit has had occasional scandals, presuming anybody is really upset except those ticketed, where, apparently, the meter maids just make up license numbers or get them from the DMV.
The result is people from time to time can prove they weren't there because they could prove they were in some other state at the time. Still, it is difficult to prove the negative.
5.7.2007 4:01pm
JohnO (mail):
Eugene should be like Skip Hicks, Cade McNown and the rest of the UCLA football team from 8-9 years ago and just get himself a handicapped placard so he can park wherever he wants on campus. Sometimes, we ignore the easy solution to our problems.
5.7.2007 4:10pm
The lack of cynicism in this thread is amazing.

First, how likely is it that a parking enforcement person would give a ticket for parking in a handicapped space to a car that was not parked in or near a handicapped space? Although I firmly believe parking enforcement people are seduced to evil by the hate that is universally sent their direction, I have yet to see a parking ticket that was so divorced from reality. Is it possible that (A) the EV was partially parked in a handicapped space but the row number was wrong on the ticket, or (B) that EV pulled in too far and partially parked in a handicapped space in the next row?

Second, who honestly believes that all parking officials at UCLA will be taking photos of all parking violations in the future because of this incident? More likely, the parking officials believed that A or B above was true, and were warning EV that the technical error in the parking ticket wouldn't save him next time.
5.7.2007 4:18pm
Vinnie (mail):
In '93 a friend of mine was work study for the parking department at Idaho state. She wrote over 100 tickets per day. they averaged $20/ticket. There were 6+ enforcers on duty at any given time. I didn't see much point in challenging parking policy. $50k profit a week is hard to argue against.
5.7.2007 4:18pm
pete (mail) (www):
The only parking ticket I ever got was at my undergraduate university when I was visting it a few years after I had graduated to use the library. I parked in a visitor spot and received a ticket for being a student parked in a visitor spot. I explained to the ticket people that I was an alumnus and that I was not too happy that they ticketed me for parking where I was supposed to park and that this was not a good way to encourage alumni to contribute to the school. They took back the ticket, but made it seem like it was my fault for not having a sign on the car that said it did not belong to a student.
5.7.2007 4:23pm
When I lived in Manhattan (and at one time foolishly owned a car) I got a ticket for parking at a bus stop. But there was no bus stop where I was parked! I sent them a sworn notarized affidavit and included photographs showing (as best as one could) the ABSENCE of a bus stop. (The MTA was uncooperative on sending me a letter that there was no bus stop there.)

Through the mail, the ticket was upheld on the basis that I had supplied insufficient evidence to show that there was no bus stop there.
5.7.2007 4:26pm
rarango (mail):
DJR: you have completely restored my faith in cynicism!
5.7.2007 4:28pm
This is why they have class actions. "A class action solves [the problem that small recoveries do not provide the incentive for any individual to bring a solo action prosecuting his or her rights] by aggregating the relatively paltry potential recoveries into something worth someone's (usually an attorney's) labor." Amchem Prods. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 617 (1997). Cf. Deposit Guar. Nat'l Bank v. Roper, 445 U.S. 326, 339 (1980) ("Where it is not economically feasible to obtain relief within the traditional framework of a multiplicity of small individual suits for damages, aggrieved persons may be without any effective redress unless they may employ the class-action device").
5.7.2007 4:28pm
Hattio (mail):
I challenged a ticket for running a red light once. Not because I hadn't run the red light, but because the officer claimed I hadn't even looked and had put numerous people's lives in danger. In reality I had rolled through shortly after it turned red when I could see that there was no traffic in the opposing lane (which I knew got to go next as I drove the same route every day). I explained it to the judge, and explained that the only reason I fought it was because the officer was such a jerk about it. The judge reduced the monetary fine to about 1/2.
5.7.2007 4:32pm
Of the two law school I have degrees from, one was extremely zealous about issuing and collecting parking tickets. I paid them, with a note saying, "if you choose to cash this check it's the last dime this school will ever get from me." They did, and it was. I get to tell this story about once a year to the alumni association.

I'm looking forward to turning down the alumni association's requests for money. I suspect it'll be the best part of graduating.

[Why people donate to their alma matter is one of those things I'm fairly certain I'll never understand...]
5.7.2007 4:50pm
On a similar note, I've twice received tickets by mail from the State of New Jersey, falsely claiming that I failed to pay a toll on the Garden State Parkway weeks earlier. Both times I responded with a check for the amount of the fine ($25, as I recall), along with a letter denying the accusation and arguing, inter alia, that it'd be silly to think I'd skip one $0.35 toll but pay the other dozen along my route. Both times they returned my money.

I find it interesting that they rolled over so easily; I think my arguments were fair, but hardly conclusive or even compelling. My theory is that the NJ authorities know the Parkway toolbooth cameras generate a lot of false positives, but they don't care because most people pay anyway. (In fact, a flat denial isn't one of the responses on the form that the State requires you to complete and return in reply to a citation. The two possible responses are, effectively, (1) guilty and (2) justified, or guilty with mitigating circumstances.) In which case it's safer to let a few malcontents like me off the hook than to jeopardize the goose that lays the golden egg by annoying someone who just might have the means and inclination to raise a stink.
5.7.2007 5:08pm
Tinhorn (mail):
Eugene -- Last week's Penn &Teller program was about handicapped parking. They should hire you as their resident expert on all subjects.
5.7.2007 5:09pm
Jerry Mimsy (www):
A few years ago I had a similar experience with the city of San Diego. Our street requires a parking permit; the color changes every year, and we have to buy a new one in October. After several years living on that street, I received a ticket for parking without a permit... in March. After double-checking that the permit was still there, I called the local police and was told not to worry about it, write in and explain and they could check that I did in fact have a permit at that time.

The first appeal was rejected out of hand, despite evidence that I'd lived there for years and had had that particular permit for five months; the second appeal I added signed statements from friends swearing to the color of the permit and to my surprise they paid attention to that one. (Although in my case they didn't refund extra money to me.)

I suspect that they just automatically reject the first appeal; the second appeal didn't really have any more proof than the first appeal did; I knew that I hadn't prompted my friends with the correct color but there was no way for me to prove that.
5.7.2007 5:10pm
As for students parking, if my experience from 20 years ago as a UCLA graduate student is any guide, most students (except those living far far away from UCLA) don't have a parking permit to begin with, and must carpool or take a bus to school.

Perhaps Eugene should start taking the bus too.
5.7.2007 5:30pm
I've found that Google maps satellite images are useful for contesting some parking tickets. It really helps the folks reviewing the ticket to know exactly where your car was, in which case an aerial picture of the space is worth a thousand words (that they probably won't read, anyway).
5.7.2007 5:36pm
The Cabbage:
Chicago Parking Story:

I park legally on a side street without parking signs. My cousin and I go into a Diner for breakfast. When we return to the car, we find that big bright orange Temporary No Parking signs have been strung up on all the trees. Every car parked on the block was given a ticket.

This is almost as good as the state of Illinois' "We're not going to send you the bill to renew your car's registration, then we'll ticket you when it lapses" racket.
5.7.2007 6:04pm
elChato (mail):
I helped out a client who got a handicapped-zone ticket in the mail, after his wife had parked the vehicle to unload something where she worked. Apparently there is a "special squad" that looks for these violations but they make no effort to ascertain who actually parked the vehicle, they just mail tickets to the record owner of the car.

I asked the prosecutor for some kind of lesser charge/fine; but he told me no. I asked him, "how can you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person ticketed is the one who committed the offense?" and he vaguely said the judge would "infer" identity. I doubt he had ever really tried one on that basis but after hemming and hawing a few minutes, he offered a reduced fine which the client decided to pay rather than fool with the matter any longer.

Chicken-#### stuff where they strongarm people into pleading to something they can't prove really bugs me. I suppose it's the unwritten rule in "courts" like that that you can't upset the gravy train of traffic ticket money.
5.7.2007 6:06pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I recently was booted for 850 dollars worth of unpaid parking tickets. I deserved every dollar of them, and then some.

But since i drive a '98 chevry prizm with no hubcaps, a stripped steering column, and 643 empty beef jerky wrappers, my way of sticking it to the man was going to be to just leave my car, which is certainly less than half the value of my tickets, in front of the vietnamese restaurant where i was eating with colleagues. But then one of them pointed out that perhaps, since I admitted I deserved the parking tickets that I had not in fact paid, my righteous anger was misplaced. I thought he had a good point.
5.7.2007 6:07pm
Just wait until the contents of your locker "escheat" to UCLA because you didn't use it for 30 days...
5.7.2007 6:17pm
JohnO (mail):
My wife got ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot at the mall. She had a handicapped placard, but the ticket said no handicapped people were in the car.

What had happened was my wife, baby daughter, and mother-in-law had gone to the mall. My mother-in-law had a handicapped placard that was in our car. When my wife parked, my mother-in-law got out and started walking to the mall because her back was so bad that she walked really slowly and could use the head start. Meanwhile, my wife got out the stroller, got my daughter out of the car, and loaded her up. The cop presumably came along at this time and waited for my wife to leave before ticketing the car.

It was funny that my wife, an educated woman but no lawyer, had no idea how to contest this. I asked her mother if she bought anything at the mall and she said yes. We collected her credit card receipts and my wife and mother-in-law went to traffic court. The judge basically had my mother-in-law swear she was at the mall that day and dismissed the ticket, rejecting the cop's in-court testimony that my mother-in-law wasn't there. The cop called my wife a liar on her way out of court.
5.7.2007 6:27pm
As an interesting fact, according to the school paper here, 2/3 of parking tickets that are contested in person are reduced or dismissed, compared with only 1/3 of those that are contested in writing. If I had to guess I'd say the difference is attributable to the fact that the written appeal requires several affirmative statements, and most undergrads (unfortunately) can't wrap their minds around the idea that they have to address each possible basis of the ticket in order to prevail (e.g., the curb wasn't yellow, the street wasn't posted, I wasn't parked within 30 feet of the curb, etc.).

I've contested two tickets with written appeals and had both tickets dismissed outright. The parking appeals board is very deferential to the defendant (appellant?); for example, if you say you weren't on the grass, they'll take your word for it.
5.7.2007 6:36pm
The Chicago parking story puts me in mind of the time I parked my car in the pierside parking lot at Pearl Harbor Naval Station. When my ship pulled back in a week later, I had been ticketed for parking in a spot reserved for the commanding officer of a salvage ship. Every ship has a "Reserved for CO USS WHATEVER" sign that is put out when a ship ties up. Apparently, they put the sign in front of my car when I was gone, and called for it to be ticketed when I didn't move it. A couple phone calls from my CO (a real Captain) to the other one (a Lieutenant, Junior Grade) got that straightened out "right quick."
5.7.2007 6:49pm
David Muellenhoff (mail):
The City of Berkeley sent me a parking ticket for my daughter's Toyota pickup, about six months after the supposed violation (similar to jonvw above). I would have paid except that I knew for a fact that my wife and I had used the pickup over that particular weekend (and not in Berkeley). Yet the ticket had the correct license plate number, VIN, make, model and color of the pickup. Seemingly rock-solid evidence, no? But I knew it was wrong, and when I called, they admitted that those details were pulled from DMV records rather than being taken from the officer's notes on the scene. They dismissed the ticket.
5.7.2007 6:58pm
Dave N (mail):
Kovarsky, you said your colleague had a good point that cooled you off but you never said whether you paid the the fines or not.

I assume you did. But if your car was worth what you said it was, then it was possibly a bad economic choice--since you likely could have purchase the same vehicle at police auction a few months hence for much less than you owed in fines. Of course, that does not answer the question of what you do for transportation in the interim. However, since I know you are a fairly intelligent attorney (though one I often respectfully disagree with), I am quite sure you would have figured something out.

Besides, from reading your posts, I think you look for more intellectually satisfying ways to "stick it to the man" than by having your car towed.
5.7.2007 7:08pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Eugene -

Did I get the impression from your post, that you didn't send them $350, but they sent you $350? Even UCLA will have to get religion if they keep doing that sort of thing....
5.7.2007 7:26pm
Incidentally, I'm not sure how common this is -- I've never seen it anywhere else before -- but here in Oxford, UK I've seen parking wardens writing out citations and they do in fact take photos. Of the car, the license plate, the front and back of the car, of the signage, ... they must take half a dozen photos before issuing the citation.
5.7.2007 7:31pm
Was the ticket issued by officer #5? I have gotten dismissed 2 tickets incorrectly issued by him. 3 other students in my class have also had tickets from him dismissed.
5.7.2007 8:09pm
Alan Gunn:
I've taught at several universities and found it interesting to compare the competence and affability of the various mid-level bureaucrats, such as parking officials, registrars, financial-aid people, the people you call to get your light bulbs changed, etc. At the school where I first taught, these people were usually pleasant, but quite commonly incompetent (and when my son went to school there I found that nothing had changed). At my next school, these people were competent but (at mid- to upper-level) unfriendly in the extreme and obsessive about the letter of the rules. At Notre Dame, I'm happy to say, they have been unfailingly sensible, competent and pleasant to deal with. It makes a difference in one's quality of life.
5.7.2007 8:23pm
Dave N (mail):
Alan Gunn--I notice you carefully only mentioned one by name. Nice plug for Notre Dame though. Maybe it is the difference between public and private schools, but I doubt it.
5.7.2007 8:38pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Incidentally, I'm not sure how common this is -- I've never seen it anywhere else before -- but here in Oxford, UK I've seen parking wardens writing out citations and they do in fact take photos. Of the car, the license plate, the front and back of the car, of the signage, ... they must take half a dozen photos before issuing the citation.
I suspect that the difference is the de facto burden of proof required in the two countries. Here, it is assumed that the parking police have no reason to lie, but you do. Therefore, you are guilty until proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.

Of course, the fact that parking tickets are often a goldmine for the authority issuing them is totally irrelevant in determining who has the greater incentive to lie through their teeth.

What is probably worse from my point of view is that that dynamic has extended itself through the traffic system even in jurisdictions that still require proof beyond a reasonable doubt to prove guilt. The police, or whoever is giving the ticket, is assumed to be pure as the driven snow, and incapable of giving false, or even mistaken, testimony. Indeed, I have been hammered by judges believing police after I had shown the logical impossibility of the charges, given the evidence submitted by the police. Of course, I was a 21 year old kid at the time. Later, I discovered that the answer to that is to appeal, and most often the dynamic is reversed there, since the higher court hearing the appeals mostly hears from those who can show that the cops were lying.
5.7.2007 10:23pm
Truth Seeker:
The line in the post office was so long that my parking meter ran out of time and I got a ticket for expired meter. I next went to a hearing at the courthouse where a newspaper reporter was covering my case and I mentioned that she should some day do a story about the parking meters that say "Saturdays, Sundays &Holidays excluded" but that are enforced on obscure holidays. We went together to the law library to get the list and lo and behold it was Jefferson Davis birthday, a legal holiday in Florida! I called the police and asked why they gave me a ticket on a legal holiday and they said they only honor the "real" holidays. I asked why they don't follow Florida law and he said I'd have to ask their attorney. He said oops, we screwed up. The newspaper did a front page story the next day that all parking tickets were dismissed and the reporter got so excited that we fought the power that... well you can imagine...
5.7.2007 10:49pm
UCLA Alum:
Well to give you a perspective on the undergrad experience with UCLA parking, I once got a ticket for $90 because I didn't have a front license plate. Except that I did have the plate. Of course I contested and they reduced the fee to $10. Well I didn't want to pay that either, but they refused because I had 'fixed the problem and they could not waive the $10 fix-it-fee.' After a long appeal process I got nowhere, they brushed me off like I meant nothing.
I told myself I would never donate a dime to my undergrad after that, but UCLA is such a huge school that I can't really spread the blame of the idiotic parking department to the rest of the school. Perhaps when I finish paying my law school debt (at a private school, so it'll be in maybe 30 years?) I'll donate a dime or two.
5.7.2007 11:58pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Whoops, sorry about the confusion related to the $350 refund. What had happened is that I appealed the denial of my original contest, and to do that I had to prepay the amount of the ticket, which I believed to be $350 -- it turns out that I could have paid just the $42, but at the time I decided to contest the matter, I had only gotten electronic notification of the denial and not the paper notification of the reduction of the fine. That's why the letter accepting my appeal said that they were refunding the $350.

To avoid this confusion, I've updated the post to remove the amount of the refund from the quote of the letter; but if you wanted to know why the post was as it originally was, well, now you know.

DJR: Look, if you want to think that I lied to the parking people to save $350, be my guest. But at least do me the courtesy of assuming that if I did this, I would be ashamed enough not to lie to my readers as well (which doesn't save me a penny, remember).
5.8.2007 12:44am
Grumpy Old Man (mail) (www):
The UCLA cops once took me to jail in West LA for an unpaid $15 parking ticket.

Of course, you can never find a cop when you need one . . .
5.8.2007 1:35am
ray123 (mail):
I believe that the City of Chicago has found the ideal solution. If you want to contest a $90 parking ticket, you have to pay $135 in court costs. Non refundable.
5.8.2007 2:15am
Ryan Holiday (mail) (www):
I too got an absurd ticket at UCLA last month. The machine never prompted me for my space number but charged me $7 dollars and spat out a receipt. I put it in my windshield and ended up with a ticket. We'll see where the contesting goes, but their system seems to be based on a hair trigger response instead of common sense.
5.8.2007 2:48am
microtherion (mail):
There goes your chance to make the next Sunday Song Lyrics:

Sometimes I park in handicapped spaces
While handicapped people make handicapped faces
I'm a Volokh
5.8.2007 3:08am
Mark H.:
Well, as long as everyone is relating handicapped parking incidences...

It was dark, it was snowing, it was about 7 degrees out, I parked in the closest space in the empty supermarket parking lot, left my wife in the car (with it running) ran into the store for whatever, for a few minutes tops, and came out to find a patrol car parked next to my car.

He wants my registration, license and insurance card all to write me a handicapped parking violation -- he wrote out the ticket with me sitting in the passenger seat of his patrol car that was parked in the only other handicapped spot in the still completely empty, except for our two cars, lot...

I fought it in court on the basis of absurdity, and lost :-)
5.8.2007 3:35am
you're lucky they didn't stick you with the taser.
5.8.2007 7:21am
Automatic Caution Door:
I've found that Google maps satellite images are useful for contesting some parking tickets. It really helps the folks reviewing the ticket to know exactly where your car was

Isn't this dependent on having a satellite image that just happened to be snapped at a specific instant in time over a specific geographic area? And was then publicly released and available for your use during the ticket-dispute period?

I've no doubt that someone, somewhere, could contest a parking ticket this way. But it seems so arbitrary and fantastic that such an instance would actually make a one-of-a-kind story, not an "I've found this useful" piece of advice...

(Or maybe this was just some joke, um, flying over my head.)
5.8.2007 10:33am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Automatic Caution Door... I too was confused by that comment for a moment, but I eventually decided that he meant to use the satellite image as just a map, on which he would indicate where he claimed he was parked at the time. The photo of the markings, and their location in reference to the surrounding buildings, would indeed help the judge understand the area better... assuming that the markings themselves hadn't been changed in the preceding couple of years, since the last satellite image was taken.

At least I'm hoping that's what he meant, and he doesn't believe that the Google-sat is sending back a live feed of the entire earth...
5.8.2007 11:25am
Justin (mail):
I believe that the City of Chicago has found the ideal solution. If you want to contest a $90 parking ticket, you have to pay $135 in court costs. Non refundable.

You're talking about the Posner decision, no? I think you only have to pay that to appeal the ticket, but you have to take your actual hearing in front of someone whose paid by, erm, commission.
5.8.2007 11:52am

I have no idea what actually happened, but it makes a good story of the sort that (having read you for some time) I think you're attracted to. My comment was not so much meant to accuse you of lying but to point out surprise that nobody had questioned the details of the story.

Even more surprising, nobody questioned whether the parking officials should be taken at their word that they would henceforth take pictures of every parking violation.

Below is a snarky comment that you would be pefectly justified in not reading:

Having read you and your arguing style for a long time, I also have come to believe that shame is not a particularly strong motivation for you.
5.8.2007 1:47pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
DJR: I'm puzzled -- if you think there's a significant chance that I'd lie to my readers, with no incentive other than to tell "a good story," and even when the lie involves a false accusation (against, my employer, yet), why do you keep reading? Given that you think that I'm shameless and not credible, I must be mighty entertaining to compensate for all that.
5.8.2007 2:59pm
I got a city parking ticket in San Diego (I didn't get my car out of a park until 10:15pm, and the park closed at 10pm), which I paid in person (I have the receipt). Yet the ticket showed up on my credit report under a collection agency. I never received notice of any amount still owing, but the city reported to the credit agency that my ticket had 'doubled' because of lateness, and thus my in person payment was not enough. Despite repeated letters, I still have a nice 'public debt' blackmark on my credit report. Eventually, I gave up fighting, and I'm just waiting for the mark to roll off my report next year.

On another note, a helpful fact I discovered while successfully contesting another ticket is that in Georgia, a fire lane only exists on the side of the lane which is actually painted/signed. If one sign isn't painted, you can park on that side of the alley. The judge was not amused when the officer's excuse for giving me the fire lane ticket was that "we've been trying to get the other side painted for 6 months".
5.8.2007 4:09pm
Just a thought:
I find it puzzling that your first presumption is that Prof.Volokh must be mistaken, and not a bureacrat ticket taker.
5.8.2007 5:26pm
on Google (mail):
Just FYI, the current Google Earth satellite picture of an area I'm very familiar with is at least 1 1/2 years outdated. The detailed close-up shows an empty lot with construction just beginning, while in reality the actual buildings have been completed and standing for a year. So I'm not sure any court should admit Google Earth satellite pictures no matter how detailed they are, because there's no guarantee that they are recent enough to be credible. There are surely better ways of documenting what the area in question looked like at the time of the parking infraction.
5.9.2007 11:12am
another possible way (mail):
There is another way of challenging a ticket that I haven't seen brought up yet: sycophancy. This might only work if you are actually guilty of the infraction so you don't mind humbling yourself a little.
I once parked in the law school parking lot in a "permit only" space. I was there only 10 minutes to return a library book and pick something else up. I found a $100 ticket on my car when I returned.
So I wrote the parking authority, admitted that I had parked there, apologized profusely, told them it wouldn't happen again, explained that I only did it because of the brevity of my stop, and then told them honestly that I couldn't afford the ticket. They sent me a letter reminding me to take the parking laws seriously, and they reduced the amount of the ticket to a nominal fee (I think $5).
Sometimes that's the better way to go.
5.9.2007 11:34am
EV: I just think there is more to the story, that you omitted in order to make it read better. I took at look at the UCLA parking web site, and it lists a $350 fine for "Blocking disabled stall" and a $42 fine for "Out of marked stall." So the real story might sound like:

1. EV parked across the line
2. Ticket mistakenly issued for blocking disabled stall
3. EV appeals - points out no HC space in row
4. Parking officials agree and reduce fine to parking out of stall (possibly they did not tell you this, but what other explanation would there be for reducing the fine to $42?)
5. EV appeals again, perhaps pointing out that the ticket is facially invalid because whatever else was happening, he was definitely not blocking a handicapped space in the row where he was parked.
6. UCLA relents, claims it will take photographs in the future, implying that it would be able to prove the actual violation despite the ticket mistake. Likely this last assertion is sour grapes rather than a true change in parking enforcement policy.

The story is more interesting if it sounds like you were ticketed for no reason at all, particularly when the ticket as written is incompatible with reality, than it is if you were mistakenly ticketed for the wrong offense, and wound up getting out of any ticket at all. Note that the above does not require any affirmative lies on your part. Maybe you never thought about or considered whether the ticket was properly issued, but for the wrong offence, or upon what bases they would reduce the fine to $42.

It's not necessary to have a good opinion of writers in order to continue reading them. I don't read sites that are blatantly partisan and ignore facts or lie outright, but there is entertainment in reading what someone writes and then the comments that follow. My initial comment was to point out surpise that nobody had questioned the details of the story.

Just a thought: As noted above, I think that the ticket taker probably did make the mistake, to EV's benefit.
5.9.2007 11:34am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Jeez, DJR, if your claim were simply that I "parked across the line" but the "Ticket [was] mistakenly issued for blocking disabled stall" -- as opposed to what you originally posted, "how likely is it that a parking enforcement person would give a ticket for parking in a handicapped space to a car that was not parked in or near a handicapped space?" -- then why didn't you say so?

I'm not sure whether I was parked partly across the line, but I might well have been. I don't remember now, because that's not what the dispute has been about; but it's possible. (I sometimes park a bit across the line, but I never park partly or entirely in handicapped spots.) If the ticket had been just for parking partly across the line, I obviously wouldn't have fought it if it were accurate, and I probably wouldn't have been able to prevail even if it were inaccurate. (If they had told me they were reducing the ticket to $42 because their records reflected that I was parked partly in a nonhandicapped spot, I probably would have taken their word on it; but none of their communications to me made any such claim.) But in any case I indeed didn't discuss this, because it didn't seem relevant to the question of whether I should have been ticketed for $350 for parking partly in a handicapped spot, and whether it's worth fighting such tickets.
5.10.2007 11:22am