Stop Los Angeles Parking Enforcement Corruption


Los Angeles, Unsafe in Park


This page is a frightening account of Los Angeles's corrupt Parking Enforcement Department. The whole affair lasted 3/4 of a year and cost about three times the amount of the citation.

When the citation was finally dismissed, it was not because of a technical error in filling out the citation, it was dismissed because I was in compliance with the law and honestly and faithfully obeyed a parking sign that unknown to me, listed the wrong no parking time. When the city finally corrected the sign, they refused to dismiss the citation but suggested that I took my photographs showing the corrected sign before I received the citation.

A few months ago, I was at my parents' house when I heard a reality TV judge say to a defendant, "I don't have to go to court, I'm honest." I found this particularly upsetting because I was in the middle of an overly complex and overly expensive battle with the City of Los Angeles over an incorrect "no parking" sign. I had "honestly" parked next to a sign that a negligent city employee had installed incorrectly and another city employee had criminally ignored so that he/she could continue writing parking citations to innocent people without effort.

The City installed the wrong sign. When confronted with this fact, rather than admitting its mistake and dismissing the citation, it denied the mistake and obstructed justice, including the violation the United States Constitution. They know that most innocent people will just pay the citation because it's too hard to fight it. It is the duty of every innocent victim of law enforcement injustice to fight back. Otherwise, further abuse will escalate.

It all began one Friday morning in June ...

I turned the corner, from Lankershim south to Weddington west. I saw an available parking space and not wanting a ticket, I looked at the adjacent parking sign, read it, and obeyed it. The sign said "No Parking 12 noon - 2 PM Friday Street Cleaning." I showed good faith and returned to my car a full one quarter hour before the beginning of the no parking period listed on the sign, allowing me 15 minutes margin for safety.

This is where the nightmare began.

In brief, this is what happened:

  1. The city installed a sign listing the wrong prohibited time. 1
  2. I have reason to believe the Parking Enforcement officer knew the sign was wrong before he wrote the citation.2
  3. When the error was pointed out to Parking Enforcement, he said, "Write a letter and complain" and continued writing citations. Parking Enforcement did not say , "I'll have it corrected."3
  4. Parking Enforcement did not discover or act to correct the error themselves.4
  5. The ticket did not say how to contest a citation, only how to pay the fine.5
  6. When I called, I got a circular phone message that after half an hour, still hadn't directed me to how to contest the citation. 6
  7. When confronted with their mistake, they denied their error and made things difficult for me.7
  8. They conducted an improper field investigation of their own error and they found against me. 8
  9. I never got verification that my registered letter with check enclosed was received.9
  10. They conducted a biased Administrative review of their own error and found against me. They even suggested that I took my photos before I got the citation and that the sign was correct when I parked there.10
  11. They obstructed justice and covered up their error. 11
  12. After permanently dismissing the citation (but before reversing the dismissal), I was required to use another stamp and request a refund of my bail and wait another 30 days. Then instead of a refund, I was informed that they found against me. 12
  13. When I went to the court house to file my appeal, their letter directed me to the wrong office.13
  14. A clerk at the court suggested that if I didn't understand the paperwork, I should study or hire a lawyer - for a $40.00 ticket.14
  15. The Department of Transportation never sent to the court my photographs or the requested papers that showed when the sign was corrected. 15
  16. When finally the matter came before an impartial judge, he looked everything over, shrugged as if to say "what's the problem" and dismissed the citation. The officer wasn't at the trial but the trial was not dismissed as should have happened.16
  17. In all, they dismissed the citation three times and reversed their decision once.17
  18. Finally, after 90 days, I received a refund of the bail only, 60 days late, and no refund of the filing fee.
  19. When filing my appeal, I was told that I would receive my filing fee refunded within 30 days if I won. I won and after 90 days, I was still waiting.
  20. I received a number of notices over a six month period, each saying that I would receive my refund within 30 days.
  21. Finally, a third of a year after I won in court, I received my full refund, but only after contacting the Mayor's office and faxing my copy of my filling fee receipt and other papers to the Department of Transportation.
  22. It cost me over $100.00 in non-reimbursable expenses and three days, contesting this $40.00 citation

When I first received this citation, everyone told me to "just pay it" even though I had committed no wrong. The reason is that it isn't worth all the time, expense, frustration, and effort to defend one's rights. I wonder how many other innocent people have "just paid it" when they were as wronged as I was. I believe the system is designed to be difficult, designed to discourage people from defending their rights. I was so outraged, I made two trips to the court house, spent three days worth of time, countless hours of teeth grinding and lost sleep, drove over one hundred miles collecting my photographic evidence, spent $20.00 on photography, totaled expenses over $100.00, all this over a $40.00 citation. I didn't do this to avoid paying a $40.00 fine, I did it to show a corrupt government that sometimes, people will defend themselves.

The city arrogantly has deluded themselves that people don't contest citations because the people are guilty. The reality is that it's just too hard to contest a citation.

By making the process so difficult, time consuming, expensive, and complicated, they discourage innocent people from defending themselves. Not everyone has the time and money to endure the process. There are countless other people, also innocent, who simply pay the undeserved fine instead of incurring the expense of defending themselves. My concern is that the City has made this entire process so difficult, that only someone strongly driven by a sense of principle would pursue it and poor people can't afford to.

When the process becomes so complicated that innocent people don't try to defend themselves, it opens the process to abuse, the government gets sloppy. If they are having a bad day, they might give citations to people legally parked because it's easier, knowing the victims will just pay the fine. They know they have to issue a number of citations each day, so they need people to park illegally. If one day, no one parked illegally, they would have to fabricate violations. Once they know that people won't challenge the fabricated citations, they will start to write citations to every car in a parking lot because they know most people will just pay the fine. People must challenge every unjust citation. When the process becomes so difficult, innocent people can't challenge a citation.

If anyone should be punished, it is the City worker who put up the wrong sign and the Parking Enforcement people who continued collecting revenue without correcting the error. The punished should not be the innocent motorist who observed, read, comprehended correctly, and obeyed the sign. Punishing the victim with revenue generating fines does nothing to encourage the obeying of the law and does encourage the city to install more incorrect signs.

At every opportunity, the Los Angels Department of Transportation and Parking Violations Bureau made the process as complicated as possible. Why? The answer is, to maximize revenue. The Los Angels Department of Transportation and Parking Violations Bureau does not issue citations to encourage people to obey the law, they issue citations to generate revenue. They want people to park illegally so they can issue a revenue generating citation. They start each day hoping people will break the law so they can issue a citation. They want innocent people to just quietly pay the fine and go away. If their interest were to enforce the law and protect people, they would place greater emphasis on enforcement and not fines. In this case, they knew that the sign listed the wrong time, neglected to fix it, and generated about $200.00 on five cars every week on that one wrong sign. If they really wanted the street clear of cars for the street cleaner, they would have gotten the sign fixed when it was first pointed out. The Officer should have stopped writing citations and reported the incorrect sign if he was concerned with keeping the street clear of cars for street cleaning.

The Parking Enforcement Officers should be compelled to be honest and to report incorrectly marked signs immediately and stop writing tickets there. If the Los Angels Department of Transportation and Parking Violations Bureau was honest, they would give warnings when it is clear the driver didn't understand. They would make the process less complicated. Investigations would be conducted in good faith. Bail would be returned promptly without requiring a separate request. If the department was honest, they would instruct their officers to report inaccurate, confusing, or obscured signs. They would instruct their officers not to write citations when they know the sign was wrong. They would instruct their officers to void a citation when the driver points out that the sign was wrong. If the Department was honest, they would obey the laws they are entrusted to defend.

Let me make this clear:

This in the United Stats of America and it stands for justice, not corrupt government. When the government shows no respect for the common citizen, the citizen loses respect for the government. When a democracy discourages checks and balances, it ceases to be a democracy.

I demand a full investigation in this department - the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation. They are either dishonest or incompetent, probably both. They are corrupt and only interested in revenue. I encourage every innocent victim to fight back against unjust law enforcement. If the city doesn't win, it won't be economical to abuse the public.


Footnotes

  1. The sign in question is on the North side of Weddington Street, about 115 feet west of Lankershim. There are four signs along the street, three said no parking 10-12, one sign said 12-2. Once a motorist has observed the sign that says 12-2, he/she expects the others to match and should not be expected to walk the length of the block, drive around the block to check, or back-up to insure that the other signs do match. The street sweeper cleans the entire street at once, it doesn't skip a section and come back two hours later. If there is a conflict, the sign closest should prevail. I should point out that the law refers to the times posted. In this case, while the times posted may not have been the times intended, they were the times posted and therefor, the wrong time posted is the law. The signs further down the street refer to parking spaces further down the street. The sign I observed, refers to the section of street where I parked. Once the sign was corrected, the new sign became the law. Until the sign was corrected, it was legal to park where I did at the time that I did.
  2. See footnote #3.
  3. While photographing the offending sign, a passer-by told me that he too had received a citation for the same reason and when he pointed out the sign, the Parking Enforcement told him to "write a letter to complain" - he didn't, so I did. It is the responsibility of the Parking Enforcement Officer to see that the sign is corrected, it is not the responsibility of the occasional motorist. If a Parking Enforcement Officer knows that the wrong sign was installed, then he/she should report it to the appropriate supervisor or agency. He/she should not continue writing citations for a violation that he/she knows was not committed. There were four or five other cars that day also receiving a citation, the drivers also believing that the sign to be valid and that they were legally parking. Parking Enforcement collected about $200.00 every week from this sign that they knew was improperly posted. That is wrong - that is entrapment. The city owes everyone an apology if not a refund.
  4. Parking Enforcement patrols the same areas regularly. They know what the sign should say. They should be just as willing to check the condition and validity of the signs as they are to observe whether the signs are being obeyed.
  5. The process is overly complicated. As I carefully looked over the paper work, there were no instructions on how to challenge a citation, you have to call. They make it easy to "just pay it."
  6. When I called, I found myself on a phone menu that didn't offer the option that I needed to challenge a citation. The menu said for more options press a specific number. That number yielded a new menu with the same options, for more options, press a specific number which returned me to the first menu. After a half hour, I hung up and redialed, not pressing the number for a touch-tone phone, and got an operator.
  7. See footnote # 8 and # 10
  8. I requested an investigation and a field investigation. Even though the sign had obviously been recently corrected with a sticker, the field investigator didn't bother to check how long the sticker had been there, or, seeing that three of the four signs were correct and prejudiced with the knowledge of what the sign was supposed to say, concluded that it would be clear to anyone else who checked all the other signs, which most normal people wouldn't do. My challenge was denied. The correcting sticker was applied crooked and wrinkled, and part of the old wrong time still shows. This showed the same lack of care as the worker who installed a sign with the wrong time, a Parking Enforcement officer who didn't care that the sign was wrong, and the field inspector who only conducted half an investigation. There must be records that indicate that the correcting sticker had been applied recently.
  9. They must have received the letter because they cashed the check.
  10. I sent to the department many photos showing the sign as it was the day that I received the citation and a month later after it was corrected with a badly applied sticker. They said that because I showed them two photos of the same sign with different times listed, they don't know which was in effect when the citation was written. They thought maybe the sign had been corrected before I got the citation and the photographs showing the sticker represented how the sign looked at the time of the citation and that the earlier photographs without the correcting sticker were taken before I got the citation. Clearly the sticker was the second photo and I wouldn't have photographed the sign before I received the citation. They should have the records of what the times are supposed to be and that the times haven't changed for some time. They should have the records of when the sticker was applied. I don't have access to these records. Even these incompetent people are smart enough not to apply a wrong sticker to a correct sign. I wouldn't take a photo of the sign with the correct time when I had no way of knowing the sign would later be changed to the wrong time. I didn't photograph the sign with the correct sticker and pull the sticker off and take another photo - it would show scraping marks if I did that and I wouldn't have wanted to compound the problem by vandalizing the sign. I showed the photograph with the sticker to demonstrate that the city acknowledged their mistake and fixed it - I wouldn't have shown it had I known that the City would distort the truth and use it against me. They also said that I didn't demonstrate that the other signs were different. That didn't matter and I could have proved it if it had mattered. It would have been no different if one sign was wrong and the rest correct or if all four signs were wrong. I wouldn't have parked there if the sign I read had been correct. I shouldn't be required to prove to the City what the correct time on the sign should have been, that's the City's job, they should know already. If the prohibited time was the same or different than what the other three signs said, it would still have been legal to park next to that one sign at any time not prohibited by that sign.
  11. See # 8 and # 10.
  12. I finally received the letter telling me that the citation had been "permanently dismissed" and that I could write requesting a refund (Who wouldn't want a refund?). I thought this nightmare was over. Instead of a refund, a month later, I received another letter telling me they found me liable. That is double jeopardy and against the US Constitution?
  13. If they can't get their act together, they have no right to punish us. This is just another example that the Department of Transportation doesn't know what it is doing.
  14. Since most people receiving citations are not lawyers, the procedure and forms should be simple and clear.
  15. The Department of Transportation then had all my evidence, papers, and photographs as well as the records of when the sign was corrected. I wrote the proper letter and sent it to the offices and address to where I was instructed to send it, requesting that these items be sent to the court. At the trial, the judge didn't have these items. I spent more money to reprint the photographs.
  16. I was the next to the last case heard that day and I had to listen to a dozen other moving violations that all went something like, "I'm innocent & besides, if convicted, I'll lose my license." I was there on principle and even though I won, I lost, because it cost me two and a half times the cost of the fine to fight the citation. I was the only parking ticket that day.
  17. As stated in items # 12 and # 16, it was dismissed three times (9-21-99, after the Mayor's office called them, and by the judge) and as listed in items #18 and #20, they several times said the refund was coming. After permanently dismissing the citation the first time, I received a letter telling me that they found me liable.

Text of my letters to various entities in Los Angeles.
Text of letters from various entities in Los Angeles.
My photographic evidence.

In early 2003, Ken Larson was interviewed on this matter for an NBC TV News report on violations by Parking Enforcement.


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