There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a parking ticket on your windshield when you ‘were sure’ you parked legally.  The good news is you can try to right the wrong.  Here’s a strategy for a winning defense.

Read the ticket carefully

Even though you’re probably upset, don’t let your anger make you do something irrational.  Ripping the ticket to shreds or throwing it away is a bad idea.  Ignoring parking tickets can result in penalties, your car being towed and, in some places, a suspended license.  The smart thing to do is read the document carefully.  Look for any information that may be illegible, missing or incorrectly described.  This can be things like the plate number, your car’s make, the place of occurrence or time of day.  If your ticket contains errors, it’s considered invalid.

Gather evidence

You can’t dispute a ticket just because you don’t want to pay.  You need to have a good argument and proof that supports your claims.  Before you move your car, gather all the evidence you can.  Let’s say you were issued a ticket during a time frame when signs say meters weren’t in effect.  To prove your innocence, you can snap a picture of a nearby sign.  If it’s an issue of a broken meter, record a video of yourself trying to put money in the machine and it not registering.  Make sure the footage is in focus and everything is clearly visible.  You can also prove your case using:

  • Diagrams or drawings depicting where you were parked
  • Maps of the location
  • Witness statements
  • Police reports showing that your car was missing at the time
  • Towing bills that prove your car wasn’t on the road

Request a hearing

Typically, you can dispute a ticket by requesting a hearing-by-mail or an in-person hearing.  Specific instructions and the deadline will be written somewhere on the citation.  Do it early so you can avoid racking up interest and penalties.  To file your appeal by mail, just write a letter explaining your defense and attach your evidence.  Statements like ‘I didn’t know the law’ or ‘I was just about to move my car’ or ‘I was in a hurry’ won’t cut it with an arbitrator or judge, so don’t go there.  Even if it’s the truth, it doesn’t give you the right to park illegally.  Before mailing your documents, make copies of everything for your own records.  Once your submission is reviewed, you’ll receive a letter with a decision.

If you’d rather show up in-person, make sure you arrive early, dress appropriately and be prepared.  The officer who issued the citation may be there but don’t let that throw you off your game.  Keep your emotions in check and stick to the facts when explaining your story.  If you have evidence, have it readily available and bring multiple copies.  Most of the time, a decision will be rendered immediately.

Stop breaking the law

You’ll save yourself time, money and aggravation if you take the proper precautions to avoid getting a ticket in the first place.  Before you leave your car, look around and read the nearby signs to make sure your spot is legal.  If you plan to park by a meter, pay as directed and leave when your time is up.