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A Forum For Community Issues : Getting Answers : Why Is the Cost of Disabled Parking Tickets So High?

I am raising my voice against cities and counties where police have been authorized, for revenue raising, to issue an excessive fine for parking in a space marked “Reserved for the Handicapped.” The City of San Gabriel recently raised its fine for this type of ticket from $125 to $330. This amount of pecuniary punishment is 10 times more than a ticket for parking in front of a fire hydrant--a more serious violation, in my book.

If this trend continues unabated, I predict that local government agencies all over the state will be tempted to keep raising this fine as a convenient source of additional revenue. What is to prevent cities and counties from raising the fine from $330 to $530? Is the sky the limit?

To check this local political fund-raising game, I suggest that the Legislature act quickly to amend the motor vehicle code to put a cap on this unfair practice.

I recommend that the state lawmakers step in to prevent any city or county police parking patrol officer from writing a ticket in excess of $30 for parking in a space marked for the handicapped. Make the monetary punishment $30--equal to what a resident of San Gabriel or a visitor to that city must pay to clear up a ticket for parking in front of a fire plug.

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Any Californian who has been hit with one of these excessive $330 fines should be given a refund.

RICHARD J. ARNOLD Captain, San Gabriel Police Department

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The state Legislature enacted parking restrictions that require disabled-person parking spaces to be located on the shortest accessible route of travel at an accessible entrance or exit of a building or parking facility. Placement of such parking spaces provides accessibility to the physically disabled at no cost to taxpayers. At the same time, it encourages people with physical disabilities to go outdoors, promoting better health and self-esteem.

The San Gabriel Police Department supports the intent of the Legislature and encourages the enforcement of all disabled parking restrictions. The purpose of enforcing these restrictions is to ensure that disabled persons have access to the designated parking spaces. Enforcement is used as a deterrent for violators.

San Gabriel, like most communities in Southern California, realized an increase in population of about 10% during the 1980s. Along with the population increase, the city realized the revitalization of its business community. Open space has become a commodity, limiting the number of parking spaces.

Some motorists use parking spaces reserved for the disabled in the mistaken belief that they legally qualify even though they do not have a disabled parking placard. Other motorists have been known to obtain these placards fraudulently. These practices discourage people who qualify for the spaces from shopping and conducting business within the community.

The current penalty of $330 was adopted on Sept. 18, 1991, by the California Judicial Council and state and county statute. Agencies that enforce disabled parking restrictions using state Vehicle Code sections, including the San Gabriel Police Department, are held to this specific penalty. Some agencies may have slightly lower penalties because they use local ordinances instead.

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On July 1 of last year, Assembly Bill 408 decriminalized parking violations and transferred processing activity from the courts to the issuing agency. This legislation allows cities to set their own penalties for citations. However, it has restrictions to limit disparity among surrounding cities. San Gabriel chose to retain its penalty schedule.


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