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City to Relax Parking Enforcement Law

Recently, we received a complaint from a resident that she received a City citation for invalid tags when in fact her car was validly registered with the State but the proper stickers were not on the tag. Wee asked staff to review City procedures to determine how to handle this type of situation.

At tonight’s Council meeting, we will adopt a law that will relax the parking enforcement laws in regards to vehicle tag and registrations.

Currently, City Code prohibits parking of a vehicle not bearing valid license plates on any public street. Under State law with respect to license tags and registration, there are two separate violations that can occur, one is a failure to properly register a vehicle and the other is to have tags that do not contain the required stickers (an invalid license plate). The State law places the responsibility on the owner of the vehicle to comply with both laws. The City’s current ticketing system does not allow the parking enforcement officers to check registration on the hand held.

As a result, City law is tailored to what can be seen, which is whether the license plates are valid, and this is consistent with State law. Requiring that Parking Enforcement verify whether a registration is valid before issuing a ticket for invalid tags is impractical unless it can be done onsite on the hand held. Adding this function to the hand held would have a cost if it is possible to do so.

It is clear from the MVA website that replacement monthly stickers are available to a resident at no cost. That this is the case is borne out by the experience of Parking Enforcement staff, as this is not the first time that the problem has occurred.

The City’s process to allow ticketed persons to appeal a City parking ticket was developed in 2000. The parking violation resolution review system was patterned on one used at the
University of Maryland. The system was developed in response to a need expressed by the residents that they be allowed to provide the facts of their case to an independent person, not parking code enforcement, without a court action and at more convenient times. The Parking Department also welcomed this process, as it removed them from making decisions as to when to
invalidate a ticket and to avoid claims that they were biased.

Currently, if a person to whom the citation has been issued contacts staff, indicates the registration is valid, and staff is able to confirm this, they are informed that the City will withdraw the citation once the underlying issues (improper month or year sticker or missing stickers) has been resolved. As noted, we are aware that resolution of sticker issues is pretty straightforward. This is referred to as a “two step” process. One is that the registration is valid, and two that proof is provided the underlying issue has been resolved (to avoid repetition of the problem).

The parking violation review officer currently also reduces the fine to $0 when sufficient information is provided that the registration is valid. Depending upon the circumstances, it is my
information that she follows the one step process (reduces to $0) on proof of registration, or holds over to insure the second step is taken. There is nothing in writing in the policy adopted by Council directing the parking enforcement officer with respect to what to find in this situation.

With the approval of the modified code, the Council can direct the parking officer and staff as to what to do when registration is proved up. According to the new policy, when the proof of registration is made and the ticket is held until the underlying problem is resolved, citation is then withdrawn or reduced to $0. If the problem is not resolved, the ticket proceeds through the usual process.

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