Contesting Parking Tickets 101
You’ve walking toward your car when you notice it.
How can you NOT notice it.
Small, rectangular and mockingly bright orange in color.
Your heart begins to race and your blood pressure starts spiking. Perhaps a vein in your temple begins to throb.
“Curses!” or “Nertz!”, you exclaim. Or perhaps you have another set of profanities you blurt out in rage.
Stop. Breathe deep. Relax. It’s going to be alright. The absolute first thing you need to do is be calm and rational enough to check the ticket thoroughly.
This is your first line of defense in fighting your parking ticket.
That’s because if the facts alleged in the ticket are inaccurate in any way, and you can prove it, the ticket will be thrown out at the hearing.
Check The Facts Alleged On Your Ticket
Is the date and time correct? Was AM checked instead of PM?
Is the license plate number correct? Is the expiration date listed correctly? Is the type of plate listed right (passenger vs. truck vs. taxi) If it’s not your license plate, even if it’s off by a single digit, you are off the hook.
Is the make and model of your vehicle listed correctly? Do you drive a DeLorean but it’s listed as Lexus? BAM! Grand slam!
Is the address of the alleged violation correct? And I don’t mean, you were parked at 1416 S. Ashland and the ticket says 1420. That’s close enough. I mean, more than a half block away at the very least. For example, there is no such address as 33323 N. Clark St.
But you also want to make sure that the address on the ticket is not on the opposite side of the street where you parked.
Is the direction on the street wrong? Did the enforcement officer list S. instead of N., or E. instead of W.? There is no S. Lincoln Ave.
If it’s a meter violation, check to make sure the correct parking meter was listed. Every meter should have it’s own unique identification number that is on the lower part of the back of the meter, engraved into a silver metal plate.
Here’s a good one. For an expired meter, there are two designations of zones. Central Business District ($50) and NON-Central Business District ($30). Basically Central Business District is downtown Chicago and Non-Central, is everywhere else. But, if you are clearly not downtown and you are cited for an expired meter but for Central Business District, you can prove by the address on your violation that this ticket was factually incorrect and therefore issued wrongly. ALWAYS check this.
Take a damn microscope to the parking ticket if you need to. Check every little detail.
If any of the facts listed on the ticket are wrong, and you can prove it, you can bring them up in your testimony before the hearing officer or in your contest letter.
Check The Parking Environment
After you do that, check the street environment where you are parked.
Check to make sure the signs and parking environment match the violation that is alleged.
Are there signs prohibiting parking? If so,are truly in violation or did the enforcement officer interpret the signage incorrectly?
If there are signs with a time sensitive violation (ie: No Parking 7-9 AM Rush Hour) is the time listed on the ticket consistent with the signage?
If your ticket is for street cleaning, are there signs posted on the block? If so, are they obscured by leaves, or have blown away in a rain storm? Did the signs go up 24 hours before the streets were cleaned?
If you were ticketed for rush hour parking, but in reality, you were parked in a bus stop illegally, the case should get thrown out. The hearing officer can only rule on the violation alleged on the ticket.
Photography and Documentation
If you have your camera with you and it’s still light enough, take photos of any signage or details that prove your case. Take photos of the street where you were parked to establish the photos represent the area you were claiming you were parked.
It’s best to photograph the situation right then if you can. Not only is it more accurate, but if you have to go home and get a camera, you may not come back and end up blowing it off altogether. Do it now!!!
Take some notes on any conflicting facts or erroneous data on your ticket, so you can consult them later when you formulate your testimony for your hearing or contest letter.
The key is to stay calm and rationale, check over the facts on your ticket and the parking environment and document what you can in the moment.
This is possibly the best preparation you can have for contesting your ticket.