It’s pouring rain outside, and you just need to quickly dash into the store. The only parking spot that is remotely close to the entrance is the wheelchair accessible one.
You debate whether or not you should park there just for a minute. After all, the weather is terrible. What are the odds that you’ll be busted, or that a disabled individual will need the spot?
What Happens if I’m Caught?
Parking in a wheelchair accessible parking spot without authorization can result in some serious fines, and possible criminal action, which means that one second could cost you. You should
note that it is also an offense to park or block an architectural improvement designed to aid persons with disabilities. This includes an access aisle or curb ramp. Generally, parking your vehicle in a parking space or area designated specifically for persons with disabilities is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by a fine ranging between $500 and $750.
That’s right. Your quick dash into the store could cost you at least $500. But the penalties become harsher with more offenses. If you were previously convicted once, the punishment increases to a fine ranging between $550 and $800, and community service ranging between 20 and 30 hours.
If you were previously convicted twice, the punishment becomes a fine ranging between $550 and $800 with 20 hours of community service.
If you were previously convicted three times, the punishment becomes a fine ranging between $800 and $1,100 with 30 hours of community service.
Finally, if you were previously convicted four times, the punishment becomes a fine of $1,250 with 50 hours of community service.
What if I Use a Friend’s Placard?
Using a placard that was lent to you is considered an offense, punishable according to the penalties set out above. Further, the court presumes that the registered owner of the vehicle is the one who parked the vehicle illegally. This means that your friend takes the fall for your act.
Basically, you commit an offense if you park in a disabled parking space even though your vehicle has a placard, you do not have a disability, and you are not transporting a person with a disability. This means borrowing your friend’s car and parking in a spot without your friend in the car is an offense.
What if I have a Disability?
Under Texas law, a disability means a condition in which a person has mobility problems that substantially impair the person’s ability to ambulate, visual acuity of 20/200 of less in the better eye with correcting lenses, or visual acuity of more than 20/200 but with a limited field of vision in which the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of 20 degrees or less.
A mobility problem means one of the following: (1) the person cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest; (2) cannot walk without the use of or assistance device; (3) cannot ambulate without a wheelchair or similar device; (4) is restricted by lung disease to the extent that the person’s forced respiratory expiratory volume for one second is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than 60 millimeters of mercury on room air at rest; (5) uses portable oxygen; (6) has a cardiac condition to the extent the person’s functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or Class IV according to the standards set by the American Heart Association; (7) severely limited in the ability to walk because of an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition; (8) has a disorder of the foot that limits or impairs the person’s ability to walk; or (9) has another debilitating condition that limits or impairs the person’s ability to walk.
For assistance on how to apply for a disability placard, check out the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website, which includes a link to download the VTR-214 Application that you will need to complete and submit to your local county tax assessor-collector’s office.
Where Can I Park Once I Receive My Placard?
So long as your vehicle is being operated by or for the transportation of a person with a disability and your placard is placed on your rearview mirror, or the special license plates are displayed on your vehicle, you may park for an unlimited period in a parking space or area that is designated specifically for persons with physical disabilities.
You are also exempt from the payment of a fee or penalty imposed for parking at a meter if you display your placard in the front rearview mirror of your vehicle or if you have disabled license plates on your vehicle.
Be warned, though, that the fee exemption doesn’t apply to parking garages, metered parking lots, or in a space located within the boundaries of a municipal airport, unless the exemption is enforced by a city ordinance. Further, you are not permitted to park at a time or when a place where parking is prohibited.
The moral of the story? Leave those spots open unless you have authorization for those who really need them, because your ability to stay dry isn’t worth getting nailed with a fine.
–Authored by Amanda Carter, Intern
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479