One of our readers reached out to us with an interesting situation.
Maureen received a letter from the city claiming her car was parked in the city in violation of rush-hour parking restrictions and she needed to cough up the $60 fine.
The problem was, on the date and time in question, she said her car was parked in the lot where she works in west suburban Naperville.
While the violation notice was issued to her vehicle, the photo in the notice was of another license plate on the same make of vehicle and same expiration date, but the plate was off by a single digit.
Maureen contested the ticket by mail and was quite surprised when the administrative law judge upheld the violation.
She was angry and confused when she got the letter from the city informing her she was still responsible for the ticket — so she emailed "Ask the Parking Ticket Geek."
I thought you would love this.
Attached are the documents I received from the City of Chicago. As you can see on page 1, the license plate they photographed was 931 6048. Our plate number is 931 6049.
I do have a Ford, and my plate does expire 8/2014, but again — the last digit is different.
I contested by mail and sent a copy of our registration, license plate and a letter.
I just can't believe they want me to pay when the plate numbers are different.
After forwarding the documentation from Maureen to city officials at the Department of Finance and the Department of Administrative Hearings, we asked why the ticket was upheld despite the city's own photo evidence undermining the validity of the ticket?
Within a few days, the city dismissed Maureen's ticket.
Maureen was elated, but was still a bit flabbergasted about the situation.
"If the plates didn't match, you'd think it would be common sense," Maureen said. "If someone had taken the time to notice that detail. ... It's a shame it had to go that far."
Although neither city department would elaborate on exactly what happened in this case, we asked Patricia Jackowiak, director and chief administrative law judge of the City of Chicago's Department of Administrative Hearings, for advice on what drivers can do to keep situations like this from happening to them.
"When contesting by mail, pretend they are in front of an administrative law judge," Jackowiak said. "If they were in front of a judge, what would they say [in their letter]? In the letter, explain it as clearly as possible. Explain your defense and include any documents or photographs that supports their case."
Jackowiak said administrative judges can legally only consider what's presented to them in the letter and any enclosed documentation. So if a vehicle owner forgets to include a key piece of evidence to support their case, or the letter isn't specific enough or doesn't explain the situation well, the judge may find the city's evidence stronger and uphold the ticket — because that's all they have to go on.
Good morning Parking Ticket Geek,
I recently received a parking ticket at 8:18 and my paid parking was through 8:15.
I was on the way to my vehicle when it occurred and would like to request it be
Would you be so kind as to offer some advice on how to proceed.
My advice would be to pay the ticket before it doubles, Jason.
Sure, it stinks you got an expired meter ticket just three minutes after the receipt expired. It's happened to me a bunch of times. I've actually come back just in time to see the ticket writer slapping the orange envelope on my windshield. Ouch!
However, the ticket is still valid even if the violation was issued even one minute past the receipt expiration time.
Unfortunately, you don't have a leg to stand on here. Sorry.
It's just best to pay up before a $50 fine turns into $100.
If you have a parking ticket question for The Parking Ticket Geek, email your query to: firstname.lastname@example.org.