Q: I received a parking ticket. I want to fight it. How do I do that?
A: This is a question that comes up a lot. And fighting a parking ticket can be a valuable lesson in civics and local government. Each jurisdiction has a different procedure, and it depends on where you receive the ticket.
So, lesson one is to figure out who issued the ticket. Just because you think you are in the city of Sacramento or Elk Grove doesn’t mean you really are. Boundaries are not straight, and you need to read the ticket to see who issued it.
Most jurisdictions require you to dispute the ticket IN WRITING within 21 days. That is a firm deadline. If you wait 30 days, you have lost your opportunity. The dispute must include your name, address, city, state, zip code and phone number. You then have to provide them with the citation number, date and location of the citation and the violation code, along with your license plate number. After all of that, you can state your reason for contesting the citation and include any supporting documentation.
If you are unsure of why you received the citation, look up the California Vehicle Code. The best resource for this is the DMV website: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/vc.htm.
While there are other sources, if you have a printout from DMV that shows you were not in violation, this will be the best source to use. Additionally, the DMV website is the easiest to use for non-lawyers.
Remember, the code section must be violated. So, if you are cited for parking in a red zone and the curb was not red, you would win, even if there may be another violation. Similarly, if you receive two tickets without moving your car and they are for the same violation, you can dispute the second ticket. But you need to show that these are the same violations.
You will receive a written notification of the outcome. If you lose, you can request an administrative hearing. Your request must be RECEIVED by the date on the notice, not sent. So, you need to mail off this request extra early and send it via certified mail, return receipt so you can prove the date of receipt.
A hearing will be set. You need to attend the hearing and bring any evidence you have. You can have this appeal done by mail, but in my experience, showing up in person is a better way to get this resolved.
Finally, if you lose that hearing, you can appeal to the traffic court. The odds of winning this appeal are small. You need to prove a procedural defect in the handling of the case, such as not being notified of the hearing date. If you can prove that, you can prevail, but you should consult with an attorney before that hearing.
The city of Sacramento parking website, with addresses and forms, can be found here: http://www.cityofsacramento.org/transportation/parking/.
The county of Sacramento parking website, which is not nearly as useful, can be found here: http://www.dgs.saccounty.net/parking/default.aspx.
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