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In many cities in California, parking places are premium. As a result, disability parking placards are extremely important resources for individuals who have some type of physical limitation. With that noted, there are many instances in which individuals in the state misuse disability parking placards in contravention of California law.
Definition of Unlawful Use of a Disability Parking Placard
In California, a person can face prosecution for the unlawful use of a disability placard in a number of different situations. First, a person can be prosecuted for this crime by lending a valid disability placard to an individual who is not authorized to utilize such a placard.
Even if a person does not directly lend a placard, he or she can be prosecuted if he or she knowingly permits another person not entitled to utilize a disability placard to use one. A person can face prosecution if he or she uses a disability parking placard that issued to another individual. A person can also be prosecuted for using a cancelled or revoked placard.
Finally, driving someone else’s car that does have valid disability placard can result if prosecution if a reserved handicap parking spot in inappropriately used. The placard is properly on the vehicle, but the driver is not the party to whom the placard applies.
Examples of Unlawful Use of a Disability Parking Placard
A woman has been asked by her mother to run errands, using the mother’s car. The vehicle comes with a disability parking placard for the mother. The mother doesn’t accompany her daughter on the errand running trip.
The daughter arrives at a store to pick up something her mother needs. There is no readily available parking. Thus, the daughter uses a handicapped space. Parking in this manner would constitute misuse of a placard in violation of California law.
In another scenario, a man takes his father to a medical appointment. His father’s car has a disability parking placard. The son drops the father off at the front of the doctor’s office and then parks the car in a handicapped space. Despite the fact that he has dropped his father off at the door to the clinic, the son has parked legally in a handicapped space and is using the placard appropriately.
Defenses to Unlawful Use of a Disability Parking Placard
There are some defenses that can be raised to a charge of illegally using a disability parking placard. One possible defense is the person charged with the crime actually was transporting a disabled individual at the time the placard was utilized.
Another possible defense involves a situation in which another individual utilizes a person’s disability parking placard. If the legal holder of the placard demonstrates that a person used it without his or her knowledge, that would likely be a successful defense. The law requires a person charged with the crime in this manner to have actual knowledge that someone else was misusing the placard in question.
Penalties for Unlawful Use of a Disability Parking Placard
California law permits the unlawful use of a disability parking placard to be prosecuted in one of two ways. First, it can be treated as a parking infraction. On the other hand, this type of charge can also be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
If the charge is treated only as an infraction, the penalty imposed on a defendant would be a fine. The fine would be between $250 and $1,000.
If the charge is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, the penalty can be more significant. If prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a defendant can face a jail sentence of up to six months. The court is also able to impose a fine between $250 and $1,000. In addition to the fine, the court has the ability to assess an additional civil penalty of up to $1,500.
Defense for Unlawful Use of Disability Parking Placard
Because of the serious consequences associated with being prosecuted for unlawful use of a disability parking placard as a misdemeanor, a person charged with this crime is wise to consider legal representation. In some instances, a qualified, experienced lawyer is able to negotiate a reduction of charges from a misdemeanor to an infraction.
If the case is charges initially as an infraction, legal counsel may also be of assistance. The possibility exists that an attorney might be able to reduce the amount of a fine imposed in a case prosecuted as an infraction.