Getting a parking ticket during a morning coffee run or after a hectic day at the office can put a damper on your day. Parking tickets can make an appearance on your windshield for many reasons. Parking in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to hefty fines. Sometimes, broken meters and changes in street cleaning schedules can lead to unjust parking tickets that can be contested. Appealing your parking ticket needs proper research and preparation. The following guide will show you how to contest your parking ticket starting with the moment you find one slapped onto your windshield until your very first scheduled hearing with the judge.
Read Your Ticket
Combing your ticket for errors is the first thing you need to do. There are many mistakes that can render a ticket invalid. Officers who fail to write accurate vehicle descriptions or those who scribble down the wrong date and time regarding your parking violation can result in a legally invalid ticket. Illegible handwriting and signatures can also work in your favor when it is time to officially contest your ticket.
Make Use of Your Phone Camera
Photographic evidence can be your contesting weapon, so make sure that you take photos before pulling out of the supposedly illegal parking spot. For example, if the meter turned out to be broken, grab your phone and fire up your camera so you can use this visual evidence as part of your appeal. Other instances where a photograph can come in handy include being parked close to a fire hydrant or a parking sign. Try to add a date and time stamp to your photos before you place them in your folder.
Sometimes, no-parking signs can be hidden from view due to tree branches or ongoing construction work. If this is the case, then you need to capture this obstruction from different angles. Taking pictures of other visible parking signs on the same block can help you win your case. This may be a time consuming task but it beats having to pay for a ticket you did not deserve. Recording a video is also recommended in the case of broken meters. If your coins do not register, then you need to recreate this defect on camera in order to contest your ticket. Remember to always capture this evidence on camera before you leave the area. Broken meters are eventually fixed and tree branches can also be trimmed a day after you receive your parking violation.
Do Your Statute Homework
Every parking violation has a specific code and a corresponding fine that drivers are required to pay. Check your parking ticket for details that can help you figure out the law or statue you just violated. Different cities have different violation codes that are available online and in places like city hall or public libraries where you can sit down and learn all you can about these codes. Drivers dealing with obstructed parking signs can look for a law that requires cities to provide their citizens with visible and readable signs. Faded signs that fail to meet this requirement can help get your ticket dismissed. If the sign was missing to begin with, then this can also render your ticket invalid.
Drivers who had no choice but to park in the handicapped parking due to an emergency may not be able to prove that they had a crisis to deal with. However, they can still contest their ticket by looking for loopholes within the statute itself. Some laws require the city to add a clear sign above the handicapped space or a painted curb to help distinguish this area. If none of the previously mentioned requirements were met, then this can help drivers win their appeal.
Contest Your Ticket Before the Deadline
Deadlines mean that you only have a limited window of time before you lose the chance to contest your ticket. In cities like Chicago, the deadline for appealing parking tickets is 7 days after the violation occurs. New York offers drivers a 30 day window for disputing tickets before charging them with late penalties. Therefore, the sooner you make your appeal, the better. Missing the deadline will result in additional fees, especially if you neglect to pay your parking ticket on time. New York drivers are forced to pay an additional $60 in penalties if they ignore their ticket for 90 days. The due date for paying your fine will be written on the ticket alongside the deadline for sending your contest.
Write a Winning Statement
Most states allow you to contest your ticket online, by mobile app, in person or even via regular mail. A carefully crafted statement can make a world of difference to your appeal. Some cities include a list of defenses that you can use when contesting your parking ticket. For example, drivers who were forced to park illegally due to a mechanic failure can easily get their ticket contested if they are able to provide concrete proof of the incident. Therefore, you need to mention the reason behind your appeal in detail. Use logic and evidence to support your cause and refrain from openly attacking or using violent language in your statement. Remember to attach labeled photos and other valuable documents if you plan on contesting your ticket online or by mail. Maps and satellite imagery that can help validate your photos are also recommended. Keep your language simple and use your facts as a weapon of persuasion.
Arrive on Time
If you choose an in-person hearing, then make sure that you are dressed for the occasion. Professional attire is preferred, even in the case of informal courtroom appearances. Arriving early can show the administrative judge that you are serious about your appeal. Most courts require the presence of the officer who issued the parking ticket. If the officer in question does not attend this scheduled hearing, your ticket will be automatically dismissed.
Present Your Case
Use your prepared statement to convince the judge to rule in your favor. Remember to tell the truth and explain the reason behind contesting your parking ticket in a clear and concise manner. Brief statements are better than long, emotional ones that are stuffed with redundant information. Respect the judge and use a calm voice in his or her presence. People who lose their temper will most likely lose their case as well, so take advantage of your hearing to get your point across without making a scene.
Answer the judge’s questions without hesitation and remember to use your time-stamped photos and videos as evidence to support your appeal. Bring copies with you to court so you can share your documents with everyone. Do not interrupt the issuing officer when it is time for him or her to speak. Judges usually grant people permission to address the officers who issued the parking fine before the hearing is over, so make sure that you ask the right questions in order to win your appeal. If you were lucky enough to find witnesses who can corroborate your story, then call on them to speak in court.
In cities like New York, the judge will reach a decision regarding your parking ticket right away. Hearings that are submitted online or by mail take longer to arrive. There is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to hearing decisions. Some people receive the decision regarding their appeal weeks after attending their hearing. You have the right to appeal a court decision if the judge finds you guilty, but in order to do so, you will required to fill out an application and pay an administrative fee that can cost anywhere from $15 to $50.
How to Avoid Getting a Parking Ticket in the First Place
- Being proactive can help you avoid getting a parking ticket in the near future. This involves staying up to date on municipal codes related to your city and carrying this knowledge with you wherever you go.
- Do not overstay your welcome in metered parking spaces. If you plan on extending your stay, then make sure that you feed the meter beforehand to avoid hefty fines.
- Many municipalities across the country have their very own parking apps. These apps offer many services such as locating the nearest empty parking space and allowing drivers to pay their parking fee at the touch of a button. Others offer discounted prices to encourage people to use their app. Community-based applications such as the SpotAngels app maps out streets and provide users with information regarding free and metered parking spots as well as garage locations. SpotAngels is currently available in more than 20 U.S cities and in European cities such as London and Hamburg.
- Keep an eye out for new signs that may have been recently erected in your neighborhood. Double check curb markings before leaving your car and make sure that your car is not blocking any fire hydrants.
- Park your car inside a garage for the day and stop worrying about parking tickets and expired meters while you are at work. Garages may be more expensive but they can save you a lot of time in the long run.