How To Fight A Parking Ticket

Let me tell you how I fought and won my most recent parking ticket. The ticket was for parking across two seperate spaces, of which I was guilty as charged. This was one of those weird parking lots that was obviously laid out at 4:00 on the Friday afternoon before the big ball game. The particular spaces I was occupying were situated in an odd corner of the lot, where if you park properly, other cars will block you in when they park properly. So you don’t park inside the lines, you park at a 45-degree angle. Everyone does this, but I got the ticket.

Well, I took that little slip of paper out from under the wipers and I wrote them a nastygram on the back. It went something like: “What’s this nonsense? I parked across two spaces because you have to. This parking lot is laid out such that…”, followed by a detailed explanation. I carefully refrained from profanity, but otherwise I let them have it for giving me the ticket. I then delivered said ticket with said nastygram to the office of the cognizant authority and washed my hands of the matter.

Next day, at work, I get a call from said authority. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “This is John.”
Authority: “Hi John, this is Susan. We’re very sorry for the parking ticket, it won’t happen again. There’s a new officer on patrol and he’s trying to make a good impression.”
Me: “I understand. Thanks.”

That’s right: the agency that issued me that ticket got it stuffed right back into their collective face and then apologized to me. Matter of fact, some months later the lot was re-painted with diagonal spaces, as it should have been all along. Now that’s how you fight a parking ticket.

Does this story seem a little implausible to you? Hopefully it does, because I held back one key detail: The authority mentioned above wasn’t the local government, it was the management of my apartment building.

You can contrast this with a city parking ticket. Can you imagine what would have happened should I return one of those with a nasty note written on it? I’d be lucky not to have an additonal fine tacked on for smart-mouthing the meter maids and/or not be charged with some sort of crime.

And so that’s how you fight a parking ticket: you make sure that the agency that issues it answers to you. In the case of the apartment building, they very much answer to me: they’re the vendor and I’m the customer and they have a financial motivation to keep me happy. Pissing off your customers with bullshit parking tickets is not a sound business decision. As for fighting a government ticket, well, since they can bring overwhelming force to bear on me should I choose to resist them, it’s a pretty good bet that I’ll be meekly paying for any ticket that’s sent my way.

3 thoughts on “How To Fight A Parking Ticket”

  1. My experience is that because it often requires some (if minimal) effort for a city government to deal with a contested parking ticket, you actually have a fair chance of getting them dismissed, at least in some cities. It’s just a matter of bureaucrats being lazy (or maximizing revenue, if you will.)

    I lived in a city once where it was common knowledge that you could get out from under (roughly) one parking ticket a year by writing anything remotely grammatical on the contest form and mailing it in. This is not in any way because the city was reasonable, but because the parking fines were low enough that only the most frugal, poor or obnoxiously principled would bother to contest them.

    Traffic tickets work similarly, and even more so, because you often have to contest them in court rather than by mail. Spending a day in a courthouse is in and of itself expensive (annoying) enough, especially for those with a day job, that the mere threat does the trick of making most people pay up, and when you actually contest, the police do not necessarily bother to even send someone to testify.

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