This is Part II of the ultimate guide to parking a motorcycle in NYC
You may wish to start with Part I before learning who murdered the parking tickets (spoiler alert…nah).
Are you ready for some more amazingly valuable information about parking your motorcycle in New York City?
5. Know your rights, and fight every parking ticket by mail
New York City processes approximately 150 quadrillion parking citations per year, many gazillions of which are appealed. The NYC Department of Finance (which processes parking ticket payments and appeals) very generously permits you to fight by mail, without appearing in person. Take advantage of this. It works.
At this point, I must confess that almost everything I know in this area I learned from Larry Berezin, the parking ticket defense attorney, on the company website, New York Parking Ticket.com. Read the website from start to finish; it’s worth your time.
The NYC Finance appeals system is administered without bias, and overwhelmingly (though not entirely) according to its own stated rules and in a way that’s free of errors. If you have a legitimate claim for dismissal under law or regulation, it will be evaluated fairly by an administrative law judge who has no stake in the outcome. If your parking ticket is dismissed, at any stage of the process, and you’ve already made payment, your payment will be refunded. Like almost everything in New York City, the system is extremely bureaucratic, but it is also very efficient and very effective.
When you see that orange envelope tucked under the flap of your gas cap, take a deep breath, then do two things. First, look carefully at the ticket and see if everything is in order; somewhere around half the tickets I’ve received have been invalid due to missing or inaccurate information (see below). If that’s the case, congratulations: if you fight, it is guaranteed that the parking ticket will be dismissed.
Second, get out your camera phone. Take at least three pictures of your bike in place, from different angles. Make sure that you capture:
- A street sign, business name, or other evidence that you are in fact at the location noted on the parking ticket
- Your license plate, to confirm that this is, in fact, your bike
- The sign indicating the parking regulation that you are alleged to have violated
- How close you are to other vehicles
- Pictures to illustrate any substantive defense you are already cooking up in your mind
For example, if you expect to say, “But Judge, I parked right at the end of the block, where I wasn’t in anyone’s way!;” Or “But, Judge, I parked at the edge of the bike share station, in the inaccessible zone blocked off by…;” think about how you’ll prove it, and make sure you take the necessary photos.
Read and refer to the section of the NYC Traffic Rules about parking (4-01 and 4-08), so that you know whether you’ve been cited for something that isn’t actually illegal! (don’t laugh. This has happened to me), and so that you can confirm that the formal code section on your parking ticket corresponds to the offense you allegedly committed. If it doesn’t, the ticket is defective on its face. That is, if you fight the parking ticket, it must be dismissed.
More pragmatically, understand what the “required elements” are on every NYC parking ticket. If your parking ticket omits or misdescribes any one of about a dozen elements (such as the make of your vehicle, the date and time, or the location), it is defective on its face. Some of the “required element” defenses have included:
- Date on the parking ticket is in the future
- Date on the ticket is ambiguous
- Nature of offense was unclear
- Make of vehicle misstated
- Vehicle registration class stated inaccurately
- Make of vehicle omitted
- Expiration date on registration sticker misstated
- Location stated inaccurately
Any one of these is grounds for dismissal, but you have to fight your parking ticket, point out the error, and actually request a dismissal.
If you fight on “required element” grounds and by some error the ticket is sustained, file a formal appeal for review (there’s a procedure for this); in the review, the ticket will be dismissed. (The regulations are unambiguous). This has only happened to me one time.
Write your initial appeal letter clearly and concisely. Attach the parking ticket and any evidence (photos you’ve annotated by hand to indicate what you intend them to show, a copy of your registration showing the elements that were stated inaccurately on the ticket, etc.).
In your letter, state your formal defenses first (missing or inaccurate required elements), then any substantive defenses. I have made substantive defenses such as these in appealing tickets that were eventually dismissed:
- I parked politely at the end of a block
- I parked on a holiday when there was no traffic, even though parking regulations were technically in force
- I parked in a spot that was physically inaccessible to cars
- I parked in a place where motorcycles routinely park
- I was one of several motorcycles parked in a space that could have accommodated only one car
- I parked in a place where you have previously dismissed my tickets
Most of the time, these substantive defenses are paired with formal defenses, but not every time. I have had tickets dismissed solely as a result of a defense that reduces to I didn’t park like an asshole, Your Honor; have a heart.
I write enough of these letters that I’ve built templates for them, and I can produce a defense package for mailing, complete with attachments, in about ten minutes. I track the progress of my parking tickets through the legal system carefully in a spreadsheet, and use the city’s online look up tool on a weekly basis to confirm that I don’t have any tickets I’m not aware of.
This sounds like a lot of work. But it’s saved me thousands of dollars. I think it’s worth it.
6. When you (occasionally) lose your appeals, pay up and move on
I’ve never had a parking ticket challenge fail that was based upon a legitimate “required element” defense (I’ve had a couple fail in the first round, but the original guilty verdict was reversed on appeal). But if your only defense is a disputable substantive claim of the Your Honor, have a heart! variety, you may lose. If you lose, file an appeal. Sometimes these are successful (The judges on the appeals panel clearly have both more experience and more discretion than the front-line judges).
Sometimes they aren’t successful.
[Larry’s note: This fascinating, insightful, and tip-providing article was written by Rich Mintz].