The question is this, who can park in a van accessible handicap parking space? We know of at least one person who got a $20 ticket who says they didn't break the law.
On July 17th, Malcolm Young volunteered to drive his 90-year-old mother to the doctor's office. When he pulled in to a handicap parking space he didn't think anything of it because his mother has a valid handicap placard.
"We pulled in and it said van accessible. I started to back out, said this is for van parking. Mother said, well, I park here all the time," said Malcolm.
So Malcolm parked there and an hour later, he saw a parking patrol officer by his mother's car. He said, "I got the ticket."
The parking patrol officer wrote him a $20 ticket, but for what? "So, I went out there and said, 'what's going on here?' She said, ‘well you're parked in a van parking space. Only vans can park here.'"
Malcolm says the officer made him move his car to a regular spot. "Show me where you were parked," said Cecelia Jones. "Where the gray car is," Malcolm said. "Where did you have to go to?," asked Jones. "I went across the driveway to where your Storm Chaser is parked."
Malcolm couldn't believe after he moved his car, she still gave him the ticket. As soon he got home, he told his brother, Darrell Young, what happened.
"I got on the Internet, checked out the law. It stated that he could park there. I told him not to pay the ticket," said Darrell.
NewsChannel 11 checked out Darrell's story. He was right. We found federal law, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It requires businesses to provide van accessible parking spaces. The law goes on to say a van accessible space "is not intended to be restricted only to vans." That means cars can park there too.
Darrell and Malcolm says they quickly found out even the people who are in charge of enforcing this federal law were confused about what was legal and illegal.
"I called down to the city prosecutor's office. They said that the law stated that a van was the only thing that could park in the space. When I told the lady that the law stated that a car could, she got mad and told me to mail in my complaint and hung up," said Darrell.
The two men ended up talking to a man face-to-face at the prosecutor's office. They argued their case to him and even brought a copy of the federal law. They said an official eventually agreed to dismiss the ticket.
In the end, Darrell and Malcolm say this fight was never about the $20. They had the money to pay the ticket, but it was about getting the word out to the disabled community so they know cars can legally park in a van accessible parking spot.
We were unable to convince the city attorney, Anita Burgess, to meet with us openly about this topic or give us an interview. But Municipal Judge Robert Doty was willing to work with us to get to the bottom of this issue. Judge Doty says he was unaware parking patrol was potentially handing out tickets to innocent people. Since then, the prosecutor's office has told parking patrol to stop writing tickets to car drivers parking in van spots.
We also wanted to know how many more tickets may have been handed out unjustly. Judge Doty says the only way to know is by going through each ticket hand-by-hand, so there's no telling how many of those are out there.
If you think you have been wrongfully given a handicap parking ticket, we want to hear from you. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|NewsChannel 11 Investigates|