Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Judges drop many
disabled-parking tickets

Two-thirds of last year's 3,306
contested tickets are dismissed

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Roughly two-thirds of about 3,306 citations contested by motorists who allegedly parked in disabled parking stalls on Oahu were thrown out last year, according to Sgt. Bart Canada, supervisor of the Honolulu Police Department's Disabled Parking Enforcement Program.

High fines and leniency are two main reasons why most citations are dismissed by judges, Canada said.

Judges are not asking for proof of verification from the Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division whether the disabled-parking placard belongs to the person who is contesting the citation, he added.

Canada also said two per diem judges have informally told him contested citations are dismissed because the fines are unwarranted.

"It seems the judges are putting more emphasis on the monetary amounts of the fines and dismissing tickets than protecting the rights of the disabled community," he said.

Officials from the Judiciary, however, have said judges do check whether the motorist is authorized to park in disabled parking stalls.

In an e-mail statement, Judiciary spokeswoman Marsha Kitagawa said, "The judges and employees of the Hawaii State Judiciary are completely mindful of the rights of the disabled community."

When asked whether a judge should be dismissing citations because the fines are high, Kitagawa said, "Judges consider the evidence presented and the relevant law and NOT the severity of the penalty, including the amount of the fine, when determining whether or not a case should be upheld or dismissed."

In an e-mail statement, Deputy Chief Judge Collette Garibaldi of the Honolulu District Court said: "Dismissals for disabled parking violations occur once proof of a valid disabled parking placard is provided. ... Judges are alert to the possibility of fraudulent copies of decals and, rather than accepting what purports to be a disabled-parking placard, will review the accompanying disabled parking ID card to determine if the serial numbers on the ID card and vehicle placard match."

Noting that he has talked to prosecutors and judges, Canada said: "A lot of our concerns are falling on deaf ears."

On several occasions, Canada said, he had observed judges dismiss citations without asking for the person's identification card to verify whether the motorist was issued a disabled-parking decal.

In Ewa District Court, about 112 of 161 contested citations, or 69 percent, were thrown out between April 26 and May 6 this year, Canada said.

Canada said he understands when an elderly, disabled person forgets to display their placard, but "those who intentionally misuse placards should be penalized. That's just blatant," he said.

"Until you lose the ability to walk or to move about freely, you really don't have an appreciation or a real true understanding of what a disabled person goes through daily," said Canada, who suffered a broken left leg while he was a solo motorcycle officer in 1996. He fully recovered after two years of physical therapy.

"We're trying to find out where the problem lies and work towards a fixable solution," he said.

The Legislature this year passed House Bill 2509, calling for a reduction of the minimum fine to $100 from $250 for those who misuse disabled parking stalls.

Legislative coordinator David Rodriguez said he believes the governor plans to veto the administration bill based on complaints made to the governor's office that the $100 fine would not act as a deterrent for motorists.

E-mail to City Desk


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