Ask the Parking Guru: How Hard Is It to Contest a Parking Ticket?


Dear Parking Guru,
Thanks for all of your parking insight. I recently received a $65 ticket for a meter violation at a broken meter. I thought it was legal to park at a broken meter. Is this ticket worth fighting? Do people ever win?
Bummed out

Dear Bummed Out,
Yes, you may legally park at a broken meter for up to two hours or for the maximum time allowed on the meter, whichever is less.  If you have looked at all of the hidden reasons why you may have gotten a ticket and you are still clean, then it absolutely is worth fighting.  So let’s take a look at some of the possibilities as to why you received the ticket.
Are you sure that the ticket was for a meter violation and not for something else such as not curbing your tires, parking in a 3pm-7pm commuter lane, or for not having a license plate on the front of your car?
In what manner was the meter not functioning?  If it was a smart meter and the smart card or credit card reader was broken, then you still were required to pay with coins.  If the coin mechanism was broken but the card function is operative, the question is: were you required to use the card feature or is the meter considered broken? Kristen Holland, the spokesperson for SFMTA, told me, "If the coin slot is broken, the customer may park in that space for the posted time limit only."  She also requests that if this happens to you, reporting the broken meter by calling 311 would be greatly appreciated. 

If the citation says “meter violation” and the meter said, “Out of Order” then you are in the best possible situation.  The law states that you may legally park at a broken meter for up to two hours or for the maximum time allowed on the meter, whichever is less.  In this case, yes, you should contest this ticket, and it will be waived.  Parking officers make mistakes too.  They collectively give out close to 2 million tickets per year, so if they make a mistake just one percent of the time, that’s 20,000 mistakes.
Contesting a parking ticket is not difficult. Simply include a copy of the ticket, along with any supporting evidence that you have such as a photograph, and a short sentence stating why they were incorrect in issuing you a ticket and that you are aware of the law.  Something like this: “This meter was out of order and I parked there for 45 minutes.  The max time allowed on the meter is two hours.  I was within the legal amount of time allowed to park at that broken meter.” Be sure to mail it to the citation review center and not to the payment processing center. The address is on the back of the ticket.
They will send you an acknowledgment of your protest, will investigate the meter, and will send you a notice waiving the ticket. It may take up to six months.
For more parking info and ways to avoid getting a parking ticket click here. 

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