How NOT to get a Parking Ticket

Posted by John on February 16, 2009
Boston, Cambridge, General
When your car has been converted into a toll booth...

When your car has been converted into a toll booth...

So it happened: you got a parking ticket. There are stages for this… first comes confusion. “Is that something on my windshield? Did someone spill neon-orange paint…” Next, realization “oh god wait it’s a, no… not a ticket!!!” Then, anger, “What the _ is wrong with this spot?? No one else has a ticket! I’m going to–” and eventually we all take the ticket off our windows, throw it in the seat next to us in a fit of anger and despair, and drive away while the paper mocks us from the passenger seat until finally, at a stoplight, we open it again to take a closer look and read the full citation, only to enter the final stage, disbelief “expired registration? Come ON!  By ONE DAY!!!”

So how can you get out of it? We’ve come up with a few solutions that seem effective in Boston for avoiding or escaping the scarlet letter of the automotive world that is the parking ticket:

1. Be a police officer (or at least appear to be)
They call it “cops writing cops” and it’s rarely tolerated in the enforcement industry.  Recently, there was a Boston Globe article about how no one is ever ticketed at the BPD headquarters for parking illegally for fear that the driver might be an officer.  The key for the rest of us, is that you don’t actually have to be a police officer, but merely give the impression that you are associated with one to up your chances of being ‘overlooked’.  Some options:

  • placing something that looks convincingly like a ticket book on your dashboard. This is the “do not ticket me, I’m in the biz” calling card of parking enforcers everywhere.
  • getting one of those black and blue identifiers (they call them ‘thin blue line’ plates) or stickers to identify yourself as a member of the ‘in-crowd’
  • purchasing one of those ‘supporters of the police’ stickers (that looks like a sheriffs badge) by donating to a police charity. 

2. Be a lawyer (or learn how to waste time like one)
The goal of a parking ticket is a quick monetary turnaround for the city.  They want you to go online, pay your ticket, and be done with it.  What they don’t want is to deal with you filing, refiling, and re-refiling arguments against the ticket, citing conflicting laws and constitutional statutes, or claiming photographic proof that is still being developed.  City governments are run like businesses and if the cost to enforce the ticket exceeds the cost of the ticket, you’ve got a shot at a one-time acquittal.  If nothing else, you could use this time to make a well placed wager at Foxwoods with the would-be ticket money and if your color hits, consider the ticket paid.

3. Be innocent (or so organized that you’d have to be)
If you can quickly provide physical proof that the ticket was incorrect, pack the 10 pages worth of justification into a manilla envelope, tape the paid-postage return envelope that came with your ticket to the front, and mail it in the day you get the ticket.  The parking office can be surprisingly understanding when they’ve made an obvious mistake, but they don’t have much patience for you to get around to making your appeal.  This applies to #2 above, even if you’re going to argue it into the ground and drag it out, get your first appeal in quickly.

So that’s it…one thing I’m going to include here at the bottom is- don’t be a jerk.  Especially if you see the parking enforcement agent writing you a ticket, the fastest way to get that ticket is to be rude to the man or woman who’s just doing their job.  Keep cool, go for the quick, clear, convincing explanation, and if that doesn’t work, prepare to fight the bureaucracy, not the individual.

Good luck out there…

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