By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
Almost all parking lots in the United States have handicapped parking spots. These spots are designated for people who have disabilities, whether they are visible or not. However, there are many people who are parking in these spots without needing them. Often times, people use the handicapped placard for someone who is not in the car or they have altered/ forged the handicapped placard.
Officers in Los Angeles are currently on the lookout for vehicles violating these traffic rules and ticketing them. In Los Angeles, police officer have the option of writing a parking ticket or a misdemeanor citations. Officer Yasnyi in particular, chooses to write parking tickets instead of misdemeanor citations because the parking ticket does not appear on the driver’s record. Regardless, the penalty for invalidly parking in handicapped parking is high. Typically, two tickets are written that can be about $363 a piece. One ticket is given for invalid use of a handicapped placard and another is for illegally occupying the space.
The Department of Motor Vehicles in Los Angeles also writes citations for misdemeanors. At the L.A. County Fairgrounds in September 2017, the DMV wrote 477 citations for handicapped placard abuse. The misdemeanor citations can cost the driver anywhere from $250 to $1000. Those that abuse the handicapped parking placard take away spots from those who truly need the handicapped parking spot. Officer Yasnyi says he would estimate that 30% of the time the placard is altered, stolen or issued to someone else (including the dead).
But L.A. is not the only city seeking to bust handicapped parking spot abusers. In Omaha, Nebraska, police are training civilians to be a part of the city’s handicapped enforcement. The civilians have volunteered to help keep enforce the traffic laws. Sgt. Erin Payne with the Omaha Police Department said, “this is really a win-win for us. For our community to be able to give back to our community, and then for them to be able to assist the police.” The volunteers are all certified to cite drivers. The Omaha Police Department said the handicap parking enforcement volunteers issue more than 1,000 citations each year. Like in L.A., the fines are heavy. First time offenders pay a $150 fine, second time offenders pay $300, and third time offenders pay $500 and risk jail time.
However, there are also people who need indeed possess a valid handicapped placard who are accused of abusing them. Lexi Baskin, a student at Kentucky University, is a cancer survivor who currently has to undergo radiation and chemotherapy that leaves her weak, tired and dizzy. She gets her treatments during her lunch break and heads back to school. Her handicap is not necessarily visible at all times, and someone who has been watching her decided to let her know their thoughts on the matter.
This person did not believe that Baskin was sufficiently disabled to deserve the parking spot. The person left signs taped all over Baskin’s car windshield and windows. Some of the signs called her “lazy” and said “shame on you.” One note in particular read, “There are legit handicapped people who need this parking space. We have seen you and your friend come and go and there is nothing handicapped about either of you. Your tag must be borrowed or fake. We will make every effort to see you fined or towed for being such a selfish, terrible person.”
The vandalism is under investigation by University police. Baskin says, “I want to get this out there to make people aware that just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean people aren’t going through it.” The misuse of handicapped placards creates a multitude of issues including taking handicapped spots from people who do need the spots to those who actually need the spots being accused of being lazy just because their handicapped is not necessarily visible.
For more information, please see:
Blaze – A Cancer Survivor Had Her Car Defaced For Using Disability Parking, But She Responded With Grace – 9 November 2017
KETV Omaha – Omaha Police Seek Volunteers for Handicapped Parking – 8 November 2017
L.A. Times – It takes a special arrogance to steal a parking place from a disabled person. And this cop is out to bust you – 8 November 2017
Author: Sarah Louise Purtill
is a second-year law student at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL). In addition to being an Impunity Watch News Reporter, she is an Associate Editor for the Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce. Sarah is the Media Managing Editor for Syracuse Law and Civic Engagement Forum as well as the Treasurer for Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity’s Carmody Chapter at SUCOL. She is also serving her second term as a Class Senator for the Student Bar Association at SUCOL. Sarah is a student attorney at the Elder and Health Law Clinic of SUCOL. Sarah graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Honors Program in June of 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Minor in History. Sarah expects to graduate with her Juris Doctor from SUCOL in May of 2019.