I’ve received many parking tickets in my life, probably more than you’ve received. Lots and lots of tickets. I’ve been towed and booted. In all my years of being ticketed for a multitude of parking offenses, one thing is true: I’ve always (eventually) paid the ticket and associated fines and penalties and whatever else I had to pay. When I get a deserved parking ticket, I might swear and be pissed off, but I’ll pay it. I’ll never dispute a ticket I received for a valid reason, even if I think the reason is stupid. I recall disputing a parking ticket once, in Chicago, when there was no sign. (I also disputed a traffic ticket once. I had to go to court, and this was before I became a lawyer. The prosecutor was awful and tried to intimidate me and the police officer lied, but I had photos and was found not guilty.)
Like my parking issues, traditionally I’ve been terrible at renewing my license plates every year. I often do this late. For example, last year, my plates expired in October. Well, shit, last October I was 900 months pregnant, giving birth, or caring for a newborn, and this rendered me incapable of going to the DMV to renew my plates. I apparently also was out of commission for the entire month of November and didn’t get it done then, either (you get a one-month grace period). Finally in December, I made the treacherous journey from my house to the DMV. (The “treacherous journey” part is
embellishment an outright lie; the DMV is, like, a mile from my house.) I paid the $900 penalty (exaggeration) for renewing late, got my “’10” year sticker to put on my plate, and never thought about license plates again until almost a year later.
In November, I realized that I never got my license plate renewal notice. Now that I’m a parent, I’m very serious about at least attempting, on occasion, to act like a reasonably responsible adult. I couldn’t remember if I needed an emissions test this year (you need one every two years and, because I wasn’t capable of rational thought at this time last year, I didn’t remember if I had an emissions test). I checked out the DMV website, which helpfully revealed that you can renew your plates online. How cool is that? Very cool. I entered my plate number and was told that my plates could not be renewed online. Why? The DMV website did not choose to reveal this information to me. Against my better judgment, I initiated contact with the site’s “live help.” The very polite person who responded to my feeble request for information about renewing my plates was completely incapable of telling me anything useful. It could not be revealed whether I needed an emissions test. It was unknown why I could not renew my plates online. Would I like to know the locations of the nearest DMV facilities, information that is readily accessible on the website without contacting live help? No, I would not.
I resorted to detective work in my own house. Last year, I still had checks. The DMV and emissions testing facilities don’t take credit cards, so if I had checks, which I did, there’s a good chance I wrote a check for the license plates and the emissions test. I found my old checkbook and, thankfully, I wrote so few checks in those last days of writing checks the copy of the $970 (slight exaggeration) check I wrote for renewing my plates last year was still there, with no accompanying check to the emissions place. Elementary, my dear Watson. I needed an emissions test.
By this time it was the end of November. I became deathly ill several times and then my liquid assets were severely limited due to our annual plumbing emergency. This means I put off the license renewal process until December, meaning that I again would be privileged to pay $900 extra for the honor of having a properly registered vehicle in the state of Colorado. I planned to get an emissions test last week but didn’t make it. That day, I arrived home to find my license plate renewal notice in the mailbox. My license plates weren’t expired! They expired in December, not October.
Thus, I realized the error. When I renewed my plates last December, they didn’t give me a new month sticker (I should’ve gotten a “12” month sticker to replace my “10” sticker, because when you renew your plates late and pay the penalty, they adjust your expiration date to one year from the month you actually renew). That might be why I couldn’t renew online — I was trying to renew early! Early! Me! Woohoo! I wasn’t late! I wasn’t going to be out $900! I invited all the neighbors over, we pushed all the furniture against the walls, and it was house music all night long!
Unfortunately, Denver parking enforcement was not aware of this exciting development and I forgot to invite them to my party, which will prove to be my downfall. The next day, I got a $75 parking ticket for having expired plates. But my plates aren’t expired! My failure to display the correct sticker was not my fault! Things like this and human decency, unfortunately, are lost on parking enforcement.
Two days later, I went to get my hair cut and highlighted. I knew parking enforcement was out to get me, so I parked at a meter with even more care than I usually take (which is a lot, seriously). I arrived for my 8:45 appointment a few minutes late (what, do you expect me to become a fully responsible and functional member of society just like that?) and used my debit card to pay for two hours on the meter ($2). I emerged from the salon two hours later, blond and fabulous, to find two parking tickets unceremoniously shoved under the corner of the hood of my car (I guess putting tickets under the windshield wipers is old school or something). One ticket was for, as you might have guessed, expired plates. The other was for an expired meter. Oh man, they must’ve just been by, because my meter couldn’t have been expired for more than two minutes. But no, they gave me the ticket at 10:25. There is no way my meter was expired at 10:25. I arrived sometime between 8:45 and 8:50, so my meter was paid until 10:45 at the earliest. There’s no way I paid the wrong meter, either, because I’m super careful about that. Someone who works for the city of Denver seriously gave me a ticket for having an expired meter when my meter wasn’t expired. This is an outrage!
Of course I’m going to dispute the hell out of this shit. I’m sure there’s a good chance they’ll say it was my fault for not displaying the correct sticker on my license plate, but I think that’s unfair because the DMV employee failed to give me the correct sticker to display. The thing is, there’s no way I should have two tickets for that, especially one I got as the result of having an expired meter, which I didn’t have. Now I just have to figure out how to prove a negative (that my meter wasn’t expired). Because I used a debit card to pay the meter, I contacted my bank to see if they could verify when the transaction went through. They can, but unfortunately, their records show the transaction going through at 3:49 p.m. that day. It looks like the minutes are right but not the hour, so I’m not sure that helps me.
According to the Denver Parking Violations Bureau website, to dispute a parking ticket, you can “Send a letter of explanation, along with any pertinent documentation such as drawings or pictures to the PVB.” Drawings! I wonder if I could commission the woman from Hyperbole and a Half to draw a picture of her dogs eating a Denver parking meter while I try valiantly to come to the meter’s rescue and shoo the dogs away with boxing gloves I’ve fashioned out of license plate expiration date stickers. That might work. Either that, or I’ll say Josh McDaniels was driving my car. What an asshole!
P.S. I renewed my plates today. It wasn’t so bad.
Update: In case you’re wondering what happened with this: The Parking Magistrate dismissed one of the citations and found the other two valid but offered a reduced fine/penalty of $25 each, for a total of $50. I swallowed my pride and paid the $50 and am happy to report that I haven’t received a parking citation since.