Last Updated on August 17, 2016 by Lawrence Berezin
Do I have any Constitutional rights when I fight?
We have received many questions about why basic constitutional safeguards, such as due process and the right to face witnesses against you, are not available at NYC parking ticket hearings? Can I subpoena witnesses on my behalf? Do I have the right to confront the warrior that issued the parking ticket?
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals answers these questions in a 1996 decision. A group of aggrieved members of the Chicago driving public filed a class action lawsuit, who fought against the lack of constitutional safeguards when fighting Chicago parking tickets. The City of Chicago issued about 4M parking tickets that year.
Decriminalization of NYC parking violations
Herein lies the answer. In 1987, Chicago decriminalized parking tickets and substituted a civil penalty system. Prior to Chicago’s reclassification, parking violators were entitled to criminal process. However, the right of confrontation, cross-examination and the full Monty of due process rights are not available to defendants in civil proceedings.
A parking ticket is considered a sworn statement under a civil system, and prima facie evidence of a violation. The officer or warrior is not required to appear at a hearing. (NYC has also decriminalized parking violations.
Why do my due process rights vanish into thin air?
Your rights do not vanish completely. The United States Supreme Court requires a risk-benefit test be applied to the due process safeguards a defendant is seeking. The 7th Circuit presents a cogent analysis of how a risk-benefit test applies to the due process rights of parking ticket victims. In summary, the Court explains the costs involved in requiring officers and warriors to appear at hearings is far greater than the benefit derived from a defendant’s ability to cross-examine his/her accuser.
I urge you to read this decision. You will gain a better understanding of the whys and wherefores behind the current system for fighting an NYC parking ticket. I believe it is an advantage for the driving public NOT to have an officer or warrior present at an in-person hearing for the same reasons expressed by the Court in Van Harken versus the City of Chicago.
Here is what will happen, anyway, when you try to cross-examine a police officer or warrior.
- Question: “Do you have a recollection of the facts surrounding my NYC parking ticket?”
- Answer: “Nope”
- Question: “Is there anything that I can show you to refresh your independent recollection?”
- Answer: “Nope”
- Question: “Why?”:
- Answer: “Because I issue 1000’s of parking tickets. How do you expect me to remember yours?”
What’s your opinion? We would love to hear from you.