•A woman parked her car in a space reserved for a handicapped neighbor. The neighbor had given up driving six months before and had sent four letters to the city to get the signs removed. Then she died, and her family allowed the other woman to park there.
O'Malley: Not guilty.
•A man said his car broke down on Light Street. He said a parking agent helped him push the car out of traffic and then wrote him a ticket for illegal parking.
O'Malley: Not guilty.
•A man double-parked in front of a bar while he tried to persuade his friend to stop drinking and not drive home.
O'Malley praised the noble deed. Not guilty.
The judge found plenty of people guilty. They included a man who argued there was no sign forbidding parking, but he showed the judge a photo of his car blocking a crosswalk. Another man was too close to a fire hydrant. A third pleaded that he double-parked only to help his girlfriend move a television set out of her Canton rowhouse.
But in every one of these cases and more, O'Malley reduced the fines, most substantially. Citations demanding $252 went down to $50, or even the $22.50 court costs. Yes, they were guilty, but most didn't have to pay much.
The good thing, at least as far as city coffers go, is that it hardly matters. A study conducted for City Hall found that parking agents wrote 396,613 tickets in 2008, with fines adding up to $13 million. Just 11,054 people challenged them in court, and 95 percent of them emerged with either a dismissal or a reduced fine. Judges threw out more than $1 million in parking fines from 2006 through 2008.
Even if every ticket that is contested gets tossed, the loss to the city is minuscule given the few people who bother to challenge. The parking study took that one step further, deciding it costs more to send parking agents to court than to keep them on the street writing tickets.
Their average pay is $14 an hour, or about $112 for an eight-hour shift. The agents write on average 29.3 tickets a shift, with the minimum fine $23. In 2008, parking agents spent roughly 154 days in court, costing the city $17,248 in salaries and a minimum $103,780 in tickets they could've written during that time, the study says.
And considering that going to court usually means satisfaction for the ticket getter and not much satisfaction for the ticket giver, why not skip the judicial process and hunt down more parking miscreants.
There, the odds definitely favor the state.