Tell it to the judge

July 20, 2005

FINDING A PARKING ticket on your car rates as one of life's truly annoying moments. Who hasn't rushed to a parking meter with coin in hand only to find that white slip of municipal bounty tucked under a windshield wiper? On occasion, you may even have gotten a ticket you didn't deserve, thanks to a malfunctioning meter, confusing parking sign or misplaced parking permit. Those tickets surely are the most annoying of all. But let's be fair: Everybody can make a mistake. Even a parking control agent.

That seems to be what happened to George C. Grimes Jr., who got slapped with a $42 ticket last Thursday for parking illegally during street cleaning hours in Baltimore. Mr. Grimes, a consultant for the city, had a special "I can park anywhere and not get a ticket" permit officially known as a "work zone" permit. He complained to a nearby police officer, who allegedly told Agent Donna L. Evans to void the ticket. That was Stupid Mistake No. 1. Then the officer ordered a second officer to handcuff Ms. Evans: Stupid Mistake No. 2.

A police supervisor with a cool head and common sense intervened and released Ms. Evans. But no police officer should be suggesting voiding tickets. That's a road no one should travel. The well-known, established remedy for disputing a ticket - as any police officer or parking agent will tell you (and probably has) - is to challenge it in court. An inconvenience, but one with a potential payoff : "Not guilty."

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