Criminal Law

Parking Tickets and Violations

By John McCurley, Attorney
Parking violations aren’t usually crimes, but not dealing with a ticket properly can create serious problems.

If you’re a driver, chances are you’ve either had a parking ticket or at some point will get one, especially if you live in a big city. Typically, parking tickets involve violations of local or municipal parking ordinances or regulations, but you can also be cited for breaking a state or federal parking law. In most cases, a parking ticket won’t affect your driving record, but not dealing with a ticket properly can have serious consequences. Unpaid parking tickets can lead to expensive fines and your car could be “booted,” towed, or even impounded.

Are Parking Violations Crimes?

Parking violations are usually civil offenses, not crimes. So the good news is that most parking violations won’t show up on a criminal record check. But here is one common exception: tickets for unauthorized parking in spaces reserved for drivers with disabilities. In some states, including Texas, it’s a crime (a misdemeanor) to park in a disabled space without a valid placard, and using someone else’s placard to park in a disabled space (if you aren’t disabled) can also lead to criminal charges in many states.

Types of Parking Violations

There are many types of parking violations, and regulations vary by city and state. However, most parking violations occur when you’ve either parked where you shouldn’t have or you’ve parked in a spot for too long.

Parking Meters

Most cities have some type of paid parking where parking is in demand. Parking meters that require you to “feed the meter” with coins to park for a certain period of time used to be the standard, but many cities now use more modern systems that allow parkers to pay with a credit card or smart phone. Whatever the system, you pay to park for a certain amount of time, and if the time you paid for runs out, there’s a good chance you’ll get a ticket. Many parking meters also limit the total amount of time you can stay in one spot, so you might also get a ticket if you try to feed the meter for many hours in a row.

Restricted Parking

Although parking regulations vary from place to place, it’s common for a city to have “no parking” zones and spaces where parking is allowed, but with certain restrictions.

No parking zones are often marked by red curbs or signs that say “no parking.” It’s also a universal rule that you can’t park within a certain distance of a fire hydrant—usually not within 15 feet. Most cities strictly enforce no parking zones, so if you park in one, you run a high risk of being ticketed and possibly towed.

Parking restrictions frequently include limits on who can park in a space, for how long, and for what purpose. For example, some spaces are reserved for drivers with disabilities, other spaces might limit parking to certain number of hours or minutes, and in “commercial loading zones” parking is allowed only for the purpose of loading and unloading commercial vehicles. If you aren’t sure whether you are allowed to park in a restricted space, it may be better to play it safe and find somewhere else to park.

What to Do if You Get a Parking Ticket

Your options for dealing with a parking ticket depend on the laws and practices of the city or state where you got the ticket. But generally, you have two options: pay the ticket, or fight it. Whichever route you choose, don’t delay. You’ll usually have a month or less to either pay or contest your ticket before additional fines kick in.

Paying your ticket is easier than contesting it. In most places you can pay a ticket by mail, on the internet, or in person. And after it’s paid, the ordeal is over. However, you might find the hassle of contesting a ticket to be worth it, especially if the ticket is expensive or unjustified.

To fight a parking ticket, you’ll need to have an argument for why you shouldn’t have to pay. Some cities require you to present your argument to the court in person, but many will have you submit your argument in writing. Either way, you should be prepared to submit evidence that supports your position, like witness statements or photos.

If the judge or hearing officers decides against you, you can usually appeal the decision. However, you might need to pay the ticket and court fees ahead of time. The amount you paid for the ticket, and sometimes the court fees, will be refunded if you win your appeal.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I get a parking ticket in a private parking lot?
  • What happens if I don’t pay a parking ticket I got while driving a rental car?
  • What should I do if someone steals my car, and then gets a parking ticket?
  • If my car has been “booted” for unpaid tickets, how do I get the boot removed?
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