Ask LH: Is This Parking Fine Unfair?

Hey Lifehacker, I was recently parked on a driveway, making sure the footpath was clear and I was not on the road. However, I still ended up with a fine. According to Victorian parking regulations, I should only have received a fine if I was parked on a road or blocking the footpath. I am sure that the part of the driveway I was on is not a road. Should I appeal? Thanks, Hassled Driver

Parking ticket picture from Shutterstock

Dear HD,

Getting fined for parking in a driveway is one of the most infuriating things that can happen to a motorist; especially when your vehicle is only slightly intruding on the sidewalk. It was for good reason that it featured on our list of the most annoying traffic fines in existence.

Unfortunately, proving exactly where you parked your car can be a difficult undertaking. Even if you had the foresight to take a photo, it might not help your chances in court. You could have easily faked the evidence by re-parking your car immediately after receiving the fine, for instance. In other words, it's basically your word against the cop or traffic warden.

That said, if you strongly feel that the fine was issued unfairly, you might as well contest it. In most cases the worst thing that can happen is that the original fine will be upheld and you will have wasted a day in court. At least you tried.

To dispute a parking fine in Victoria, the simplest option is to have the decision internally reviewed by the agency that issued it. To make things fairer, this will be carried out by a person not involved in the decision to issue you with the infringement notice. However, it's not inconceivable that bias could still be a factor against you (i.e. — by reversing the decision, the organisation is admitting that they stuffed up, which could make them less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt). If you're still keen to give it a shot, you can read up on the specific steps involved via the Victoria Government's website.

You can also elect to explain yourself to a magistrate. This will involve appearing before local court at a specified date and time to defend yourself at a formal hearing. The magistrate can then decide to abolish or dismiss your case (meaning the fine still stands). They could also decide to impose a fine that is more than the infringement penalty, although this is incredibly rare. Click here to download a court application PDF.

If you decide to go down this road, be sure to bring any supporting evidence you can think of. Often the decision will come down to how benevolent the magistrate is feeling on a particular day, as well as any existing driving offenses you may have. An impeccable record will obviously work in your favour.

See also: The Most Infuriating Traffic Fines In Existence | Top 10 Parking Crimes Against Humanity | This Is What Happens When You Try To Pay A Parking Fine In Loose Change [Video] | Ask LH: Should I Appeal This Traffic Fine?

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Or maybe don't waste a bunch of people's time just because you think "you might as well contest it"? There is no way to prove your argument and almost all people who say they weren't blocking the path really were.

    This seems to be an ongoing thing that people comment that they were clear of the footpath in their mind, because half of the footpath was left clear and that is good enough for them. Kinda over people doing the wrong thing and then trying to get out of it by wrongly contesting and wasting time and money.

    Last edited 24/02/14 1:39 pm

      If it's an unclear law, contesting it also brings to light the frustration it's bringing the public. Best case scenario the hazy law is dropped, worst case scenario traffic wardens will have to start taking photos of cases. Either way it gets cleared up, and it's only a waste of time if not enough people contest it to put it on the lawmaker's radar.

        I think all parking fines should require a photograph to highlight the problem, that way when you contest it, your contesting it with their official photo.

          This: If there's no way to defend the charge, there's no way to prosecute it either. I.e. Just saying something (i.e. a ticket) happened in a certain way (regardless of the presumption of officers doing the right thing) shouldn't cut it. There should be something "physical" to back the charge up.

          Doesn't reasonable doubt enter in to play? I.e. if you can introduce reasonable doubt that the infringement actually took place, are you not then innocent until proven guilty?

            This is actually correct, and legally you cannot be fine for it. Another way of looking at it: prove it was individual X who parked this car.

              Except that the fine isn't usually made against the person that drove the car, but rather, the car itself. so proving who actually caused the infringement seems irrelevant.

                Any infringement needs to be made against an individual, no matter what the police etc think. A car is not capable of self-conciousness and thus cannot perform any illegal actions.

                  StickMan is correct, but still... The fine is made out to the owner of the car, and it is up to the owner to nominate someone else if it wasn't them.

            I believe that principal only applies to criminal infringement. Civil infringement has different legal underpinnings

              I know, but civil penalties are somewhere between civil disputes and criminal actions. It's still a notice brought by a government agency (rather than members of the public against eachother) and a burden of proof still exists, though not quite "beyond a reasonable doubt"

              Wikipedia suggests "Clear and convincing evidence" as the standard, and (at least to my mind) a notice of infringement isn't clear and convincing, whereas photographic evidence would be. This should be the standard of proof in these matters.

          I agree. Photos just make it so much easier the whole way around. If this was in place then drivers frivolously contesting the fine can be cut down in a heartbeat, instead of wasting time in court. Cops are also then held accountable for ensuring all fines are issued legitimately.

            Many countries around the world do this already (first saw it in Dublin 10 years ago) - and despite its other failings ALL tickets in the ACT (including those issued by the police as opposed to the rangers) must be backed up by photographic evidence. No photo proving the offense and it is withdrawn.

            I guess you do't worry about Big Brother watching over your shoulder? :p

              I think this is one of the few cases where it's not oppressive to take photos like this. If you park somewhere you shouldn't and you don't get a ticket, there's no photo and nobody was watching. If there's a photo you were doing the wrong thing anyway, and if the officer was wrong you get proved innocent. There's really no downside to this that doesn't already apply and the upside is greater than current.

                Ah, but then we have our good old friend Mr. Slippery slope.
                "Hey, it's perfectly fine to have these cameras checking on my parking so I can prove that I didn't deserve that fine."
                "Hey, it's good I have this subdermal tracking chip so i can prove my alibi if i'm ever accused of a crime I didn't commit."
                "I don't know why i didn't have this thought tracking implant put in sooner..."
                I am being somewhat facetious, but hopefully you get my point.

          In my local area, I have seen Parking Inspectors issuing fines AND taking photos when they do so.

      I just wish there was a better, more fair, and more likely to actually affect peoples behaviour method than excessive fines.

      Studies show it's completely ineffective at doing anything at all - even for speeding - but obviously it makes a lot of money and there's not really a 'better' alternative. At the very least, giving someone the option to attend an educational thing - or perhaps have a system for such things where you could call up and listen to a declaration that you understand X Y Z legislation, and it would let you off once or twice... Just anything but money when people quite often don't have some to spare.. Especially when they can take your licence for ANY fine (which in this country most people need to work/get to work given the great distances).

      That said, I also object to there being either communities where neighbours are dobbing in neighbours, or where there are ticket inspectors walking around suburbs.. Which we pay for out of tax, so that they can fine people and make money and post PROFITS?

      Madness.

      Last edited 24/02/14 2:37 pm

        How about not breaking the law. Wouldn't that be a crazy idea.

          Interestingly, the constitution states that no entity except federal authorities have the ability to tax or fine anyone for any given purpose.

          When you want to talk "the law" there are more than a few grey lines.. People can and should just be expected to do their best, and to show a willingness to change, and to be informed and educated - as is the governements mandate - instead of pretty much "illegally" fining people which has been STATISTICALLY PROVEN to be irrelevant to peoples behavior.

          I don't disagree, and my point is as to how is effective to achieve that. Or just keep getting more frustrated and calling the cops on dangerous neighbours with their car infringing a few cm on the path. Clearly those citizens are the best ones.

            I'm mainly talking about speeding. People speed and complain they got a ticket for going 2-3 km/h over the limit. The point is, you're supposed to be travelling under that limit.

            If everyone's attitude was to travel 5 km/h under the speed limit. leaving a leeway in case you accidentally speed up a bit, then you wouldn't have the bitching.

            Unfortunately everyone's attitude is to go at or very close to the speed limit, with a bunch of people going over the limit. They then complain when they get a fine and call the police/government revenue raising pigs, etc.

              1. You don't get a fine for going marginally over.
              2. Limits are set almost arbitrarily in most cases - generally more to do with city planning than safety from an engineering standpoint.
              3. As I say in my other post, very few people are truly going out with the intent of speeding. A truly statistical minority. For most people it's because their foot creeps down and we don't all have/use/trust cruise control or a speed warning buzzer. It's very easy to do when all it takes is for you to relax your foot muscle and let your foot fall - it's natural action.

              4. People going slower than the speed limit seems like a good plan, but in reality is unlikely to do anything for safety. In fact, I don't know the exact name for the phenomena - but people doing exactly this is largely what causes freeways to 'stop' in peak hours. The slightest bend and people slow down 5-10km/hr, then the next car does a few extra to maintain a gap, etc etc, and before you know it you're stopped in a lane with no traffic and no exists..

              Dropping 5 to avoid a bureaucratic construct, under speed limits which are already well below what is truly safe from an engineering standpoint (in most cases anyway) - this argument (a common one) might as well just claim if everyone did 35km/h everywhere then nobody would get a fine/hurt and the world would be just perfect.

              In reality, all it does is slow down entire cities for what is - in my view- statistics used for evil, in that i'm sure there IS some percentage of people you could say "they were doing 55 in a 60 zone and survived this crash while someone at 60 in a 60 zone died thus you are X percent safer if you drop 5", but in reality, even someone with a poor imagination like myself can picture just how little this is going to do to help in an actual life threatening accident.

              Edit: For my money (just a random thought just now - i'm sure there are problems with it that could be refined), keep the cameras (hell, add twice as many), add detectors to them that triggers one or two signs in rapid succession with their licence plate and their speed warning them they will be fined. If still speeding even 10m after the second sign - fine them.

              The point is to make it about awareness and making it a clear choice to break the law or to abide it. I am not at all anti-law, but I am definitely against INEFFECTIVE laws which are essentially leveraged to provide millions every year.

              Last edited 24/02/14 5:54 pm

                You do get fines for being 4km/h over (maybe even 3km/h).

                You point is, you would be travelling at a speed under the speed limit, so that you don't go over it. Just because you have 2 metres until you walk off the end of a cliff, doesn't mean you should go all the way up to it, leaving no leeway. You fall and then blame nature for taking the earth away.

                I'm not a professional, but I have studied this at university, so basic knowledge on the topic. I am definitely not an expert.

                There are a number of factors taken into account when designing roads/speed limits.

                Firstly, speed limits aren't set at the maximum safe speed. Sure, you could safely drive 30km over the speed limit on a certain road, but then you may have not have any leeway if anything is slightly off.

                Engineers need to account for drivers who speed over the limit as well. So speed limits could be 20-30km/h under the actual safe limit, so that even if people break the law, they will still be somewhat safe (disregarding the fact that they are traveling at a different speed to other motorists, which makes it very dangerous).

                Speed limits depend on the ability to spot an obstacle on the road and be able to safely stop without hitting it. Sharper turns, less visibility, lower speeds, etc.

                Public buildings such as houses, shopping areas, hospitals, schools, influence the decrease in speed as well.

                Lastly, in an effort to preserve a road when money is tight or there are constraints to restore/repair it, the speed limit is lowered. This is because roads are more susceptible to erosion when vehicles are traveling at higher speeds.

                There could be other reasons as well, but it's worthwhile to take those into account.

                Also, there are formulas/charts which can be used to find safe speeds, radius, etc.

                I'm not sure if they are actually used by designers/engineers in practice though.

              The problem I have with this, is that 2-3km isn't enough leeway to deal with the inaccuracies in the system. Your car might be 1-2 km off, the police scanner might be 1-2km off, if you add that all up then the police scanner could be 5km off what you think you were driving.

        I disagree. While I'm not naive enough to think that making money isn't a big part of it, I do believe that the risk of receiving a fine is an excellent way to discourage a person. I will tell you now, I don't speed for two primary reasons, those being: 1) Danger/risk/harm. 2) Fines (which are in place to reinforce the danger/risk/harm part.)

        I'm only quite young (22), so I have had to sit through the numerous educational initiatives that are in place to discourage speeding, drink driving and peer pressure driving. I have also seen how it has fallen on so many deaf ears and watched as people have gone through this education and then drove off at 140 km/h in an 80 zone 30 minutes later. The people who do the wrong thing are still the ones who don't care to learn, and those who do the right thing are the only ones that absorb the message.

        People need an instant discouragement to not do the wrong thing. Going to speed? Well you get to pay $500. Keep doing? There goes your license, try and make money now. The loss of money is more effective at stopping someone than the distant idea of harm.

        I know we are talking about parking fines, so the above is slightly irrelevant, but I think it works the same way. Without the fear of harm that accompanies speeding, people are prone to commit parking infringements at their leisure. There is no physical harm being done by parking wrong, but it does inconvenience and goes against necessary rules that are in place to ensure facilities can be utilised fairly. To be honest, the fact that people cannot afford the fines just adds more weight to obeying the rules.

        This probably isn't popular opinion, but I just think without these fines, the place would go to shit.

        Last edited 24/02/14 3:33 pm

          1) Danger/risk/harm. 2) Fines (which are in place to reinforce the danger/risk/harm part.)

          So you've NEVER gotten a speeding ticket? Everyone has these same fears, and yet hundreds of thousands of fines are issued every year. Most people claim it's either through crazy road regulation (areas quickly alternating speeds) or that they simply slipped over the limit after some time of driving.. Very few do it maliciously.

          so I have had to sit through the numerous educational initiatives that are in place to discourage speeding, drink driving and peer pressure driving. I have also seen how it has fallen on so many deaf ears and watched as people have gone through this education and then drove off at 140 km/h in an 80 zone 30 minutes later.

          For one, I don't think that this forced on everyone does anything but try to give everyone a fairly even blanket coating. They are nothing like what I would suggest which would be a structured system to offer equally as deterring effects as a monetary fine. Not to mention that this sounds like it was clearly in school.. As though anyone learns civic morality there, or doesn't struggle to keep their eyes glazing over in general heh!

          Also in no way saying that what I suggested was perfect - merely that an alternative strategy is needed, not to keep beating the same drum and hoping for different results.

          Last edited 24/02/14 4:18 pm

            Nope, never gotten a speeding ticket. Only fine I've ever gotten was a parking fine in a 2hr zone, which was fair enough as I had been there for 3-4 hours.

              But is that in any way due to fear of the fines?

                Fear of fines, understanding of risk and respect for rules.

      Or we could realise that 'guilty until proven otherwise' is a bullshit way to do anything. It's 2014 FFS, it's not hard for every cop to have a camera to take actual evidence showing that the fine applies. Imagine the time/$$ saved in stupid court proceedings and paperwork.

        That is essentially exactly what this process is heh. There is no court involved at this level, though anyone can then take it further if they choose to, however usually when they see the photo and cited legislation in the mail then they do not..

    I thought contesting fines could also incur court fees, thus cheaper to just pay the fine and not risk it?

      Yeah, but the hilarious thing is that you can then sue the magistrate (alternatively, the police department for approving the fine in the case that the magistrate is legally exempt) for making a bias decision. No proof means no crime.

    I often see parking inspectors taking photos these days, presumably to use as evidence. Perhaps you are able to request those.

    The parking meter people at my council take a phone of the car before issuing the ticket (its the same machine/smartphone) So depending on your council they make actually have photographic evidence that can sway the argument either way during a review.

    "May as well contest it"

    Terrible advice. I can guarantee that if you arrive on court day day with zero evidence just to have your day in court you will be leaving with criminal conviction over a parking fine. No magistrate will take kindly to you wasting their time over a fine that you should of just paid as you had no evidence to the contrary, you may also leave having to fit councils legal costs as well.

    But you "May as well"

      And what, do you suppose, you would be criminally charged with? No magistrate could possibly show beyond reasonable doubt you were wasting the courts time.

      If the OP turned up well prepared, I suspect worst cast would be a ruling upholding the fine, plus costs.

      Reasonable evidence that could be taken to court could include a photograph of the OP parked in that spot showing how he/she alleges the car was parked. Armed with the relevant legal arguments I'd suggest HD would be in with a fighting chance. Especially if the situation supports the suggestion the officer may have made a mistake.

      I got off a fine once for incorrectly feeding the meter. Though I couldn't prove I'd put any money in the meter, balance of probabilities got me off because the following meter user showed an unusually large payment. These kinds of little details do matter.

      As crazy as this may sound to some people, this actually happened recently to my boss' partner. Contested a parking fine because she was claiming the markings weren't clear enough. The judge decided that she was wasting the court's time and threw the book at her, giving her a good behaviour bond. And they thought they had a strong case, too.

      It does happen. You need to be very careful with what you choose to contest in court. You basically need to have 100% rock solid evidence to support your claim, and perhaps a good solicitor.

      Last edited 24/02/14 4:02 pm

        Nothing can protect you from stupidity. If the magistrate is a dick, you're outta luck. Although you can then sue the magistrate or the next person up, and up the ladder we go....

      As I mentioned, while it's possible to end up with an even bigger fine, this is quite rare; especially in situations where no serious offence has been committed.

      You're also wrong about needing concrete evidence. I once went to court to contest a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. I had no defense other than not wanting to lose my license (it happened during double demerits). The fine was quashed and I walked out with a clean record.

        As in my example above with my boss' partner, you need to be careful with that strategy. If the magistrate is having a bad day you could be issued with a good behaviour bond for wasting the court's time.

        Also to be fair a parking ticket is a different situation to not wearing a seat belt. If you don't wear your seat belt you're basically only putting yourself in immediate danger, but if you park in a no parking zone you're potentially causing huge traffic jams, or damaging property, or whatever. It basically doesn't just affect you.

        Last edited 24/02/14 4:15 pm

    slightly intruding on the sidewalk

    Footpath, Chris. Footpath.

    For those who think that being pinged for parking with your car intruding "slightly" on the footpath is annoying please consider those who are with wither mobility aids or visually impaired.

    What you see as your absolute right, to park "slightly" on the footpath, is a genuine annoyance to other people and not your confected annoyance because you broke the law and also human decency.

    Stop being a greedy arse and consider other people.

      By "slightly" I meant a few centimetres, which isn't nearly enough to obstruct a wheelchair or a double pram. To call this breaking human decency is a bit over the top.

        In some areas those few centimetres do matter for those that are disabled (and would anyone be happy having their car damaged?) - and the law applies regardless of what someone thinks might be enough room - parking covering any part of a footpath is an offense for a reason and the amount should not make a difference.

    For the life of me I cannot find a charge for "wasting the courts time"

      It is called "costs" and is often at the discretion of the court if you lose.

        Costs are what the other party can seek if they're ruled in favour. And they have to be fair and reasonable and cannot be used as punishment. Different to the way people are talking about being fined/charged with wasting the courts time.

    What pisses me off with this is when I see a speed camera vehicle clearly blocking a footpath. The speed camera is supposedly there in the interest of public safety but forces people closer to the road as they walk around it.

    Take photos and appeal.

    The burden of proof is on the prosecution. If they have no photographic evidence, you will win.

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