Illegal Use Of Disability Placards Can Lead To Far More Serious Charges}

Submitted by: Greg Hill

We have all seen it. An athletic person, appearing about twenty-five years old, pulls into a parking space reserved for handicapped parking. The driver opens the door of the car and jogs into the store, obviously disabled only in his or her judgment. Andrew Bynum, while he was with the Lakers, was cited for this crime.

Handicapped parking fraud is illegal under Vehicle Code 4461. The maximum penalty is six months in jail and a fine of $250 to $1,000, but the real danger is having the ticket lead to much more serious charges. In addition, the court has the discretion to also impose a $1,500 civil penalty on top of the $250 minimum to $1,000 maximum fine.

Section 4461 itself prohibits four basis types of misuse of a handicapped parking permit. They are:

1. Lending a valid permit issued by the DMV to someone who is not entitled to use it;

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2. Knowingly permitting another person (who is not entitled to use the placard) to use the placard;

3. Displaying a disabled person parking permit that was not issued by the DMV; or

4. Driving someone elses car that displays a valid disability placard and parking in a spot reserved for disabled persons.

An exception to each of these conditions occurs if one is transporting a disabled person. This exception applies even if one drops off a disabled person at the front door to a store, for example, and then parks in a designated parking spot reserved for disabled persons.

Handicapped parking fraud often involves other more serious offenses. For example, one may have a Photo-Shopped parking pass with a forged or counterfeit seal. This exposes one to a violation of California Vehicle Code 472, which can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor (a wobbler). If convicted of violating section 472, one can face up to a year in jail if the case is filed as a misdemeanor and up to three years in prison, plus up to a $10,000 fine if the case is filed as a felony.

Handicapped parking fraud often also involves counterfeit disability placards. This can be filed as a violation of California Vehicle Code 3363(b). If one is convicted of violating this misdemeanor code section, the judge can impose a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine between $250 and $1,000.

When someone is using another persons permit as is it were there own, a police officer may question the user if he or she is disabled. If one provides false information to the police officer, for example by falsely insisting the placard owner is yourself, a violation of Vehicle Code 31 occurs. This is providing false information to a police officer, which carries with it a maximum six month jail term and fine of $1,000.

Lastly, we have seen one case where our client obtained a proper, DMV-issued disability parking placard, but did so based on filing a false application with the DMV, a violation of California Vehicle Code 20. Our client has done this once before, so the judge seriously considered imposing the maximum punishment, six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine, but he did not. We were able to negotiate a plea bargain involving an enormous amount of community service and a fine.

About the Author: Greg Hill is a criminal defense attorney in Torrance, California. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (Bachelor of Science, 1987), Boston University (M.B.A. 1994) and Loyola Law School (J.D. 1998). Visit his firms website is at

or call him at (310) 782-2500.


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