Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

A $966 Cup of Coffee

Dear Parking Guru,
 
I have a parking ticket woe, and would like advice on how to state my case in court. The other day, I stopped for coffee in the morning at 6:15 am. I parked in the handicap spot in front of the coffee shop just to run in (not very smart in retrospect, I know). There was a CHP officer at the next corner who saw me, watched me get in my car, and then proceeded to pull me over after I pulled out of the spot.
 
The next day, I went to the SF Superior Court to find out what the fine would actually be, and even the man working there was confused. He managed to look up the fine amount for the violation code, and the amount is $966! He even thought that there must be a mistake. I can’t find anything about this though. Any advice that you have for me would be greatly appreciated.
 
Best,
Excessively Fined
 
Dear E.F.,
 
I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I am also sorry to be the bearer of bad news for you, but there was no mistake made. The fine for parking in a blue zone in SF is now $966.
 
Parking in a blue zone, or the cross-hatched area adjacent to a blue zone without a disabled placard or plate is punishable by a fine of up to $1000.  In San Francisco, the fine is $966.
 
State Assembly Bill 144 was introduced by Assembly woman Fiona Ma a few years ago, was quickly passed, and made a law, bringing the penalties way, way up for this violation. Misuse (which includes "borrowing") of a disabled placard or plate; using a counterfeit, altered, or forged placard or plate; using a lost, stolen, or expired disabled placard or plate, have even stiffer penalties.  
Shortly after this bill passed in SF, parking control squads and sting operations were launched specifically designed to monitor and investigate the use, and misuse of disabled placards. In just three months, 700 illegal disabled placards were confiscated.
 
Not only is the fine a big one, but the misuse of a placard will cost you quite a few Karma points as well. If you are disabled, know someone who is disabled, or have been disabled, then you are aware that having to walk a block or two can be a major event. Being able to park close to the door can be a difference maker.
 
Now, before anybody reads this and goes all vigilante, remember that not all disabilities are visible, so think twice before you go up and confront someone who appears to be misusing a spot or placard.
 
So, to answer your questions:  
What should I say in court?
I’m not a lawyer, but I think you’re going to wind up saying, “Can I pay with a credit card?” I definitely wouldn’t try the old color blind defense. That one hasn’t worked for decades. If it were me in your shoes, I would say, I am very sorry your honor. I won’t do it again, and could you possibly reduce the fine?
 
Do you have any advice for me?
Yes. Off the top of my head, my advice to you and others would be…if you’re not disabled nor driving a disabled person somewhere, don’t park in a blue zone. You’re better off parking right on the sidewalk blocking the coffee shop door. That will only cost you $110.
 
But, after giving it some thought, I have a non-smartass solution that I think is a pretty good one: Tell your local coffee shop owner to go to this link and they will see that for just a little more than you are about to pay for your ticket, they could apply for and receive a 22-foot green-zone curb, right in front of their shop. It’s a win-win-win situation. The coffee shop gets turnover of traffic, disabled people have access to the blue zone, and nobody will ever have to pay $966 for a cup of coffee again.
 
If you’d like to read about other little known parking facts click here. If you would like to be guided by voice to the closest available parking spot on the street or garage, in real-time, click here.