Yes, fighting a parking fine does seem like fighting the ageing process, or railing against a horrible traffic jam.
It’s that sense of impotent fury - even if you catch the parking officer as they’re sticking it to you, or your windscreen, you know you can’t talk them down - that makes parking tickets such a white hot pain in the ass.
You may, in the past, have tried to fight one and failed. I can certainly sympathise as I recently did the same and, despite presenting what I thought was a flawlessly cogent argument involving inadequate and stupid signage, the Local Council of Hateful Fools still said I had to pay.
On the other hand, a few months ago I wrote off to challenge a fine I’d been given in a private Sydney car park, where the signs seemed to suggest I could park for free after a certain time. When the parking company wrote back to say they could see my point, and they’d decided to let me off with paying half the fine I knew I had them, and never paid a cent.
Which just goes to show it’s always worth trying. There are, of course, some tactics it’s worth considering; even if having right on your side doesn’t always mean you’ll win.
Snap to it
CHOICE, the consumer’s bible, says that some 10 per cent of Victorian motorists challenge their parking fines, and around 40 per cent of those contested tickets end up being waived. Yes, almost half!
Some private car-park operators have been cracked down on by officialdom in the past for dodgy practices.
What you need to realise is that you’re going to have to thoroughly document your case, and supplement it with photographic evidence, so as soon as you find that dreaded ticket, with its helpful envelope, on your windscreen, search the area, scan the information on the ticket, look for obscured or unclear signage, and take photos of all of it on your phone. Every bit of evidence helps.
If the ticket machine is faulty, be sure to take a photo - or even a video - of that, obviously.
Don’t waste your time
As CHOICE points out, writing to the council with such puny excuses as “I don’t live in the area”, “it was raining and I didn’t want to get my purse wet” or “sorry, I was in a hurry”, are about as likely to fly as “don’t you know who I am?”
What you need is a blatant error on the ticket - so check every line, the time, your rego, the date, the code of the offence - a faulty parking meter (smashing one up in your fury so that it becomes faulty after you received the fine won’t help) or an unclearly marked parking bay or signs.
At the more extreme end of things, you can claim you suffered a medical emergency or that your vehicle had broken down. If you drive an old dunger, the second one might seem tempting but you’ll still need evidence or witnesses to prove your case.
Speaking of which, consider how far you’re willing to go to stick it to The Man. Appealing in writing to the council that issued the fine is your first line of attack, but if things go to the next level you may have to contest the fine in court, which means taking time off work.
Weigh up the costs, alongside your likelihood of winning, because you will have to pay the court fees, as well as the fine if you lose. And that could sting even more than getting the ticket in the first place.
If you get a ticket in a parking area owned by a private company, your first recourse is to write to them and contest the fine, but because they are private entities they might choose to ignore you, or try to bully you by saying their terms and conditions leave no room for appeal.
If they try that, or anything like it, go to the consumer-protection bureau in your particular state and ask for help.
CHOICE points out that some private car-park operators have been cracked down on by officialdom in the past for dodgy practices.
Going to extremes
Out at the very edge of acceptable behaviour, and indeed the law, there are some more desperate tactics you could try.
Self-described “parking guru” Daniel Battaglia from ParkingMadeEasy.com.au says some drivers have successfully appealed fines using excuses ranging from illness to stolen number plates.
“Even when drivers admit fault, the fines in some cases are withdrawn based on exceptional circumstances, which include mechanical breakdown and medical emergency,” Mr Battaglia told News.com.au.
“One common way to dispute an infringement is in writing with an explanation or appeal letter including supporting evidence such as photos, mechanical repair receipts or medical certificates.”
Mr Battaglia also relates one method we’re not recommending, merely reporting.
“If you get a parking fine, go to the next car with a valid ticket on the dashboard, take a photo and send that in with the online appeal. It actually works and it’s a win against the greedy councils’ revenue-raising tactics.”
Unsurprisingly, Mr Battaglia points out that his parking tips are not meant to be taken as legal advice.