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Ca. Appeals Court Says Handicap Parking Laws Not Unlimited

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

While most people know that they can't park in certain parking spots without breaking handicap parking laws, did you know that in certain circumstances, disabled persons can also be in violation of the law for parking in disabled spots? That's what the California Appellate Court said today.

The case, Spicer v. City of Camarillo, addresses the issue of unlimited parking in handicap spots, in light of municipal and state law. The plaintiff in the case was disabled and had a placard issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. On October 13, 2007, he parked his van and pickup truck on a street in Camarillo and was issued a courtesy warning, placed on his windshield. The warning stated that the Municipal Code prohibited parking of the vehicles for more than 72 consecutive hours.

Three days later, the vehicles were towed.

Here's the tricky part of this case: The street in question did not have signs posted, denoting the parking hours. So, essentially, the street fell under the reach of the Municipal Code, which applied the 72-hour rule.

Of course, to make matters more complicated, there exists another section of the Municipal Code addressing handicap parking laws that allows disabled persons to park unrestricted, if they display the placard.

But the fine print on that Municipal Code section also states that the unrestricted parking is only allowed in the case where there is "a sign erected pursuant to a local ordinance," essentially, where there is already a sign up that states how many hours cars are allowed to park.

In this case, the plaintiff raised many issues, from simple dispute on municipal code related issues to more serious allegations of constitutional violations of equal protection.

In summary, the California Appellate Court held:

  1. The parking limitation was in effect, as the Municipal Code Section only allowed unlimited parking to vehicles displaying the disability placard in cases where there was a street sign limiting the parking.
  2. The notice on the plaintiff's windshield was not a "street sign."
  3. The interpretation of the Municipal Code section did not discriminate against disabled persons.

So disabled parking spaces aren't always all that they're cut out to be, are they? Or, it may be advisable to check that Muni Code before leaving your car. You never know what laws may apply to that helpful handicapped parking spot.

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