Let’s face it — parking in a big city is always a pain. Whether you forget to feed the meter because you’re running late, get stuck in a meeting that runs past your meter time, or absent-mindedly leave your car in a no-parking zone, we all know the dreaded feeling of finding a parking ticket when you return.
Fortunately, parking tickets are not considered a moving violation. As long as you pay your parking tickets on time, your insurance rates shouldn’t be affected. Ignore them at your own risk, though, because unpaid parking tickets can definitely impact your premiums (and lead to even bigger problems with the MVD, for that matter).
Types of Parking Ticket Violations
While it may feel like the meter reader dishes out parking tickets based on mood swings and personal vendettas, there’s usually a legitimate reason. After all, the meter maids aren’t out there to ruin our lives — they’re just doing their job. Some of the violations that can result in a parking ticket include:
- Parking more than 18 inches from the curb
- Parking the wrong direction
- Parking in a commercial vehicle only
- Parking too close to a crosswalk
- Parking too close to an intersection
- Parking at an expired meter
- Parking too close to a taxi zone
- Double parking
- Parking meter violation
What Happens When You Don’t Pay a Parking Ticket?
Forgetting, tossing, or refusing to pay a parking ticket might get you into more trouble than you think. You could be sent to collections, which would negatively affect your credit score and could lead to higher car insurance premiums. Unpaid parking tickets may also result in a hold or suspension on your license, which could lead an insurer to decline to renew your insurance policy when it expires.
Higher insurance premiums may be the first thing on your mind, but to be frank it shouldn’t be your biggest concern. Unpaid parking tickets that lead to aggressive debt collectors may result in your car being towed or impounded, and insurance doesn’t matter much when you don’t have a car. In short, it’s always easier and less expensive in the long run to swallow your pride and pay the fine as soon as possible.
What Happens If You Can’t Pay a Parking Ticket?
Getting an expensive parking ticket while you’re low on funds is a challenge. If you’re going through financial hardship and you can not pay your fine on time, the most important thing you can do is be proactive.
In some states, drivers have the option to complete traffic school instead of paying a fine. If traffic school is less expensive than the ticket (or even better, free), it’s certainly an avenue worth pursuing. You can also communicate your situation with the judge and ask for a reduction, extension, or a payment plan. As long as you’re honest, genuine, and can offer some evidence that you’re facing financial difficulty, the court should be willing to work with you to find an equitable solution.
How to Check If You Got a Parking Ticket
Parking tickets are normally placed on your vehicle’s windshield or driver-side door. If you suspect you got a ticket but somehow misplaced (or defiantly crumbled up) your ticket, you can contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to ask for a record or history of traffic violations. They should be able to find any parking tickets with your license plate number or vin.
If you’re not a fan of working with the MVD, you can contact the traffic court in your county or city. The court clerk should be able to tell you if you have any parking violations on file, when the parking ticket was issued, what amount is owed, and when the amount is due.
How to Fight a Parking Ticket
If you’d like to protest the ticket, you should do it as soon as possible. Schedule a date and time to appear in court, and come prepared to prove why you didn’t deserve a ticket. The police officer or meter reader who wrote the ticket may appear in court, but they often don’t for minor parking tickets.
Some possible defenses you could present include:
- The parking meter was broken or incorrect
- The applicable no-parking sign was knocked down or obscured
- The paint on the curb has chipped or faded to the point the color is indistinguishable
- You complied with the applicable parking rules and received the ticket in error
- The ticket was improperly printed (i.e. wrong vehicle information listed on the ticket)
Note that it doesn’t matter who the driver was at the time the parking ticket was issued — the ticket goes to the vehicle’s owner, not the driver. As such, it’s not a valid defense to show that a friend or family member was driving that day. You can (and should) get that individual to reimburse you, but it’s up to you to pay the actual fine to the city.
After you plead your case, the judge will issue a decision. Should the judge decide to rule against you, it’s in your best interests to pay the ticket as soon as possible to avoid additional fines or penalties.
How Parking Tickets Affect Your Insurance
While a parking ticket doesn’t directly affect your car insurance rates, your credit report does. As such, unpaid parking tickets that go to collections can indirectly harm your car insurance rates.
The type of ticket you really need to avoid to preserve optimal insurance rates is moving violations. Speeding, failure to use turn signals, failure to yield, turning into the wrong lane, and even something as simple as driving with a broken headlight can negatively impact your car insurance for up to three years. Major traffic violations like a DUI are even worse, potentially hurting your car insurance rates for up to seven years.
Do You Need an Attorney to Fight a Ticket?
Generally speaking, you don’t need an attorney to defend yourself in court against a parking ticket or a minor traffic ticket. However, cases with criminal consequences like a DUI, manslaughter, or accidents that involve serious injury or death will absolutely require the help of an experienced attorney. Traffic accidents that involve injuries may also require the assistance of a personal injury attorney.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.