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27 Did you know you'll soon lose the right to a trial for parking tickets?


This article is from the California Driving (and Surviving) FAQ, by "George J Wu" georgewu@netcom.com with numerous contributions by others.

27 Did you know you'll soon lose the right to a trial for parking tickets?

from capps@crash.cts.com (Melville Capps) Tue Dec 28 14:49:14 1993


Assembly Bill 408 changed the nature of contesting parking or standing
ordinance violations from an infraction trial in municipal court to an
administrative review by the same agency that issued the ticket. In a
criminal infraction trial the accused is afforded all their constitu-
tional rights to Due Process, and the 5th amendment right not to be com-
pelled to testify against himself, whereas in an administrative review
the accused is not afforded these rights. Parking and standing viola-
tions are now subject to a civil penalty, and a special, limited civil
procedure, provided in the statute, for contesting a citation. This
bill went into effect July 1, 1993.

The bill was clearly designed by the legislature to increase revenues
through parking fines, instead of increasing revenues through taxa-
tion. From talking to various city officials in San Diego County I
have learned that this bill is part of a plan to eliminate as many
types of cases as possible from the courts. Also I learned that the
state has been presenting this to the cities as a way that they can
increase their revenues.

Since A.B. 408 went into effect, the City of San Diego has raised its
parking fines 50% and they even went to the trouble and expense of
plugging up the nickel and dime slots on their parking meters to in-
crease the number of tickets that they could write. The City of
Oceanside has also increased its parking fines, and I am sure that
many other cities have increased their parking fine amounts as well.

The legislature "determined" that handling parking tickets in court
was a great burden on the court system, but that claim is false. For
example in 1990 in the north county judicial district of San Diego
County there were over 200,000 cases of all types heard. Of these
about 115,000 were traffic tickets, but only 618 were contested park-
ing tickets.

The legislature "determined" that the existing procedure for contest-
ing a parking ticket was a burden on the motorist, and that a criminal
trial was not needed to insure a fair hearing. This claim is also
false, as the new procedure is more burdensome, complicated, and ex-
pensive for the motorist as it requires more steps. Even people who
are innocent will tend to pay the fine, because of the time off from
work and expense required to contest a ticket.


1. The same agency that wrote the parking ordinance, that issued the
citation, and that will profit from the fine, is the only agency that
a person can contest a parking ticket before. There is only a slight
possibility that the accused can get a fair and impartial hearing un-
der this system. The accused does not get a trial before a judge.

2. In the "administrative review", the accused is presumed to be
guilty if the issuing agency has a copy of the parking ticket and
registration information from the DMV. This is the only information
that the issuing agency needs to present. Unlike a criminal infrac-
tion trial where the state has to prove the guilt of the accused, in
this "administrative review" the accused has to prove his innocence.
This "presumption of guilt" is un-American, and is the Napoleonic sys-
tem of law that is used in Mexico, South America, and some European

3. In the "administrative review", the issuing officer does not have
to appear to testify or to be questioned.

4. The owner of the vehicle is jointly liable with the driver for the
parking ticket; although, an exemption is given to bona fide leasing
or rental companies. This means that the owner of the vehicle is
going to have to pay the fine in order to renew his registration, and
his only recourse may be to file a legal action against the operator
of the vehicle. This is not an equal application of the law when pri-
vate owners are held responsible for another person's actions, yet
rental companies are exempt.

5. The issuing agencies can get an automatic civil judgment against
the owner of the vehicle merely by paying the court filing fee ($182
which of course is added to the amount the owner has to pay). The is-
suing agency doesn't have to present any evidence to get this judg-
ment. The agency can then seize a Citizen's property, garnish wages,
or use any other civil method to collect.

6. The procedure for the "administrative review" is not clearly
specified in the bill. The bill provides that the initial request to
contest the parking ticket can be made by telephone, mail, or in per-
son. This results in an internal investigation the results of which
must be mailed to the person who contested the ticket. Next is the
"administrative review", where the accused must state in writing his
or her reasons why the ticket was in error. The bill gives the person
the option of having the actual review conducted in person before the
examiner or by mail.

The administrative review procedure is going to be different in each
jurisdiction, and from what I have found out so far in San Diego
County many of the jurisdictions are not even planning to follow the
statute. They are going to require people to go to some office in
person during business hours to request the initial investigation, or
they are not going to allow in person administrative reviews before
the examiner.

7. If the accused does not like the results of the administrative
review, then with a $25 filing fee, a new trial or so called "trial de
novo" can be heard in municipal court. The municipal court is sup-
posed to use the same revised civil procedure as in the administrative
review, and the entire record from the issuing agency can be admitted
as evidence. This is not a "new trial." The admittance into evidence
of the issuing agencies file means that the accused is having to
sacrifice his 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination. Also
since the issuing officer will not have to be in court, there still is
no way to rebut the issuing agency's case. This is no trial.

8. The examiners for the administrative reviews are not even required
to be lawyers, let alone judges, and so do not have the ability to in-
terpret issues of law. The accused will have to take the additional
time and expense to appeal any case that require a legal determination
to the municipal court. But the person must be very careful not to
incriminate his or herself in the administrative hearing.

9. The City of Oceanside is acting as the processing agency for vir-
tually all north county cities. The San Diego Mediation Center has
been hired to provide the administrative hearings. A Citizen who
wants to contest a parking ticket must a pay in addition to the fine a
$22.50 fee to get an administrative hearing! Of course there is
precedent for this: It was customary in England for the condemned to
tip the executioner.


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