A Guide to Parking Tickets
Imagine you received a couple of parking tickets last summer. You may have forgotten about the tickets, which didn’t amount to more than $100 in total. Then one day, you’re pulled over by a couple of police cars with flashing lights at a stop sign. The officers inform you there’s a bench warrant out for your arrest because you missed your court hearings about some parking tickets. Plus, they tell you you’re driving on a suspended license for failure to pay your fines. You’re now facing arrest — and your car could be getting impounded.
A worst-case scenario of this sort is possible, and provides a good reason why you should take parking tickets seriously. Not paying your parking tickets can cost you more than you think, including court hearings, jail time, a suspended license, an impounded car, and all of the expensive fees that come with ignoring or overlooking the tickets.
How Does a Parking Ticket Impact You?
A single parking ticket can blow your budget. Ignoring it and hoping it will go away could become a very expensive mistake. Metropolitan cities with parking shortages are some of the most expensive places to receive a parking ticket. Some of the typical fines you can expect to pay are:
- In San Francisco, obstructing traffic without a permit, such as double parking, can cost you $1,000;
- In New York, a parking ticket is $65;
- Parking in a handicapped or disabled spot costs a minimum of $250 in Chicago and $421 in California.
Not paying your parking tickets on time can lead to late fees and other issues. It’s best to avoid getting a parking ticket in the first place. If you get one, pay it right away.
What Happens If You Don’t Pay Parking Tickets?
Regardless of whether you get a single parking ticket or several, not paying has consequences. A parking ticket will generally not affect your driving record or car insurance rates. However, an unpaid ticket (or more) has a cumulative effect, as the scenario in the introduction highlighted.
Ignoring tickets can lead to increased fines, car booting, mandatory court appearances, bench warrants, and suspension of your license. It can be costly and challenging to reinstate a suspended license, as well as may impact your ability to get to work.
An unpaid parking ticket can even affect your credit score. The DMV may send your account to debt collections, which will reflect on your credit file, drop your credit score, and reduce your chances to qualify for a mortgage, car loan, or credit card.
Should You Pay or Appeal Your Parking Ticket?
When you pay a parking ticket, you legally agree to fault. You may appeal the ticket, although you should have a good reason (and the evidence to back it up). If you don’t have a legitimate reason with verifiable proof, it’s best to pay the parking ticket.
Some reasons you may want to appeal a parking ticket include:
- The parking signage was missing, unclear, or concealed: If you feel you were wrongly ticketed for parking in a location such as a residential area or zone with limited hours, you may appeal the ticket. Make sure you have photo evidence showing the signage was removed, damaged, or concealed in a way out of your control.
- The parking meter was broken: If you were unable to pay for parking at the spot because the meter was broken, providing evidence of the damage may help you win the appeal.
- Your car broke down: If you were unable to move your vehicle from the parking spot because your car broke down or you were in a car accident, you might be able to appeal the ticket successfully. Proof of a tow truck pick up, roadside service, or the follow-up auto repair would be good evidence.
- You were parked correctly: Mistakes happen sometimes. If you were ticketed incorrectly, provide photo evidence contesting why you disagree with the ticket.
- A neighbor falsely reported you: Some individuals have ongoing property disputes with neighbors. A neighbor may call to have your car ticketed and claim your vehicle has been parked in front of their property for days. You may be able to appeal a ticket if you can prove you have an ongoing dispute with a neighbor or that you weren’t parked as long as the neighbor claims.
How to Pay a Parking Ticket
There are several ways to pay a parking ticket, and the instructions are provided on the ticket itself. If you lose the it, you’ll normally receive another notification in the mail. Larger cities may have more options available. Depending on your location you may pay your ticket in the following ways:
- By mailing a check;
- In-person at the parking authority;
- By telephone;
- By paying the ticket online;
- Through an app;
- At the parking meter, if it’s a more modern version with a keyboard and card terminal.
Be sure to check your physical tickets for the specific options available in your situation.
How to Contest a Parking Ticket
Contesting a parking ticket takes extra steps and varies from state to state. You’ll need to write an appeal letter and provide any proof of why you believe the parking ticket is incorrect. Most states have a 30-day window for appeals, so don’t delay.
Parking Ticket Contest Letter Sample
When putting together an appeal letter to contest a parking ticket, include the following information:
- Your name and address;
- Contact information such as phone number or email address just in case someone needs to reach out with questions;
- License plate number;
- Citation number;
- Time and location of the ticket;
- A brief explanation that starts with the law that was allegedly broken and why you disagree with the parking violation;
- Photos, witness statements, or other evidence to back up your claim.
Make a copy for your records. Hand deliver your statement or if you mail it, make sure you send it via registered or certified mail to confirm the appeal was received.
Reach Out to a Parking Ticket Lawyer
In situations involving many tickets or excessive charges, it may be wise to reach out to a lawyer. An experienced attorney knows local and state laws well and may find loopholes or faults in the way you were ticketed that the ordinary person may not have known about. If you’ve let the tickets accumulate for too long, you’re probably facing court hearings, a towed vehicle, and a possible license suspension. These matters shouldn’t be taken lightly. A legal professional may help you before you get into worse trouble.