‘Unfair’ reason for $568 parking fine
WELCOME to Sisters In Law, news.com.au's weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn tackle your legal rights when it comes to appealing parking fines.
QUESTION: I was driving home late last month when my phone rang. I needed to take the call so I pulled over into a vacant parking spot to plug in my headphones so I could speak hands-free. I was getting ready to reverse out and head on my way when a police officer knocked on my window and fined me $568 for stopping in a disabled parking space. I was literally there for 20 seconds tops and there were 5-6 other vacant disabled spots on either side so it's not like I was putting anyone out. I think this is really unfair - what are my legal rights when it comes to disputing parking fines? Kevin, Wollongong.
ANSWER: Sorry Kevin, you'll get no sympathy from us.
Disabled parking spaces are there for a very important reason, and if everyone acted in the same way as you there would be no accessible parks available for vulnerable members of our community.
Of all parking offences this is one of the more serious as far as the penalties are concerned. There are hefty fines and in some states, like NSW, deduction of up to two demerit points, which are aimed at deterring people from using the parks without a permit.
Your fine will be payable to the NSW State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) and you can request a review online.
Anyone who feels like they have a valid reason for the offence can lodge a review.
We note that in your case you believe that only stopping for a "matter of seconds" is justification for being in the park.
The Road Rules are pretty clear in stating "a driver must not stop in a parking area for people with disabilities" unless they have a current parking permit for people with disabilities.
We don't like your chances of appealing this fine unless you have a better reason than the one you've stated.
If you choose to lodge a review you need to act quickly and lodge the review before the due date of the fine, as missing the deadline brings penalty fees.
If you have already paid the fine, you can still lodge a review. Act quickly though as again, there are time frames that apply.
When you lodge your review you need to include details about why you think the fine was incorrectly issued and any supporting evidence.
We'd suggest outlining:
• Exactly why the ticket should be waived and details of the conversation you had with the police officer issuing the ticket;
• Your impeccable traffic history record (if applicable);
• Your commitment not to do this again;
• Any evidence you have (eg photos of the area showing the significant number of carparks, your call history showing that a call came in at the specific time);
• A request to have the fine waived due to the extenuating circumstances.
Telling your life story or a long sob story is not going to be helpful, your letter should be concise and contain only relevant information.
Other reasons that may allow you to have the ticket waived, which you may wish to consider, include:
• Is the penalty notice accurate; your registration details, the date of the offence listed?
• Was the area appropriately marked as a disabled parking area?
• Was it an emergency situation? (the need to take the phone call)
After considering the review the SDRO will decide to either uphold the penalty, issue a caution instead of the fine or cancel the penalty notice (if it was issued incorrectly).
If you aren't happy with the outcome the next step is to go to a Local Court.
This gives you the opportunity to challenge the offence and present your evidence to a magistrate.
The possible outcomes are the same as the review process, it is however a lengthier process.
On some occasions, if you lose, the magistrate will order you to not only pay the fine, but also costs to the court and the police who issued the fine.
For more information you should contact a community legal centre in your area.
If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org