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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 26, 2004

A Better Fix Than

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:31 pm

The Washington Post recently highlighted a website — — that helps folks in D.C., San Francisco and New York City fight parking tickets online (“A New Recruit in the Parking Ticket Laws,” by Don Oldenburg, 02-17-04) (Thanks to Marcia Oddi at Indiana Law Blog for the pointer)

no parking I checked out this morning and have two reactions: (1) I’m not impressed with the value, even though you pay nothing if your parking fine isn’t reduced or dismissed; and (2) helping consumers understand the law of parking tickets is precisely the sort of task that bar associations could do very inexpensively on their websites, and through handouts, both to serve the public and to create goodwill. [Putting together parking law primers could also be a great, if unglamorous, project for law students across the nation.]

Of course, information about parking law and dealing with parking tickets belongs on court-based self-help websites — but I’m afraid that such services would run afoul of the revenue-generating purposes of most parking-enforcement schemes.

The ParkingTicket website might be perfectly acceptable to the ticketee who merely wants to contest a citation without appearing in person and doesn’t mind paying a middleman a hefty fee. But, value-conscious consumers will surely balk. Taking a look at PT’s Terms & Conditions, reveals that its “Guaranteed Dismissal Fee” is equal to half of the amount saved by the Customer (thus, the fee is $50 if a $100 ticket is dismissed). In addition, the fee is paid upfront, but is not returned until after both an initial judgment of guilt and a mandatory appeal by

What we have is a 50% reverse contingency fee, paid in advance for a “confidential, customized dismissal letter” that is computer-generated after the customer answers a short list of questions. That’s a high price for beating a ticket you could very well have fought yourself successfully — plus, you get to subsidize the frivolous pursuits of PT’s less reponsible, scofflaw Customers.

wrong way neg Frankly, I’m also not impressed with PT’s philosophy. On its FAQ page, it asks “When should I fight a parking ticket and when should I just pay it?” And responds “You should fight a parking ticket whenever you feel like it. There is no rule to say you shouldn’t fight a ticket. It is your right to fight a ticket for any reason at all.” That’s not too civic minded, and hopefully not the response that a lawyer would give a client. On the topic of legal advice, ParkingTicket declares in its Terms:

13. Customer authorizes to share its parking ticket and related information to outside counsel including attorneys, retired Parking Ticket Municipal Judges, retired Police and Traffic Agents and other consultants as may see fit at its sole discretion. is a website and not an Attorney. does not give legal advice. Do not consider anything on this website as legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact an attorney.”

For some free information on parking tickets, I suggest my article Parking Meters 101 – it has a few fun anecdotes from my own experiences with parking meters in Schenectady. Teaser: find out if you have to pay a ticket at a broken meter.

  • The article also sets forth a little of my philosophy on both operating regulatory systems and paying parking tickets:
    A civil society requires more than well-crafted regulations; it requires proper enforcement. The humble parking meter can teach us a lot about designing and operating a good regulatory system. Lawbreakers and whiners aside, some parking tickets are just plain unlawful or unfair — the result of poor planning, poor enforcement or both.
    When I think a ticket is unfair or unlawful, I fight it, even a $5 one. In the process, I’ve discovered that more than a few meter maids and municipal lawyers need to learn some parking meter law.
    In a nutshell, a parking ticket at a meter is fair if the driver failed to pay the posted fee, overstayed the time limit or parked at a prohibited time — as long as the meter is in the right spot, works correctly, is properly labeled, and neither the government nor the weather has made it unreasonable to comply.


  1. I used
    I want the public to be aware that their so-called “refund guarantee” has a loophole which they can slither through. They insist that you request a refund within 30 days of the appeal decision. Most people will never, EVER see their appeal decision within 30 days. I received mine approximately 90 days after the decision was rendered. insists that I didn’t follow the guidelines, even though everything was done by the book, and therefore am not entitled to a refund.

    In a nutshell: Use them if you’re in the mood to get ripped off!

    Comment by Daniel — April 6, 2005 @ 5:10 pm

  2. I don’t like parking tickets. They are not good for society. Some people park at Fire Hyrdants and then try to get off.

    But there are so many tickets being issued improperly that anybody who fights them for a living should be considered nobel prize winning material.

    But there are always two sides to a story. The Cities want money. People want convenience.

    Hey Dan, were you parked at a FIRE HYDRANT and then tried to beat your ticket or was your ticket issued unfairly to you?

    Comment by unregistered — May 9, 2005 @ 11:10 pm

  3. I was also “ripped off” by I was dropping someone off (yes, parked at a fire hydrant) but returned to the car before the cop had finished writing the ticket; he blocked me in so I couldn’t get away, then dumped the ticket through my window; the law says that if you are present, the ticket must be formally served in person. However, failed to get my case dismissed (so I paid the $130 fine) AND refused to make a refund when my appeal was ignored. They are not heroes, they are cynically and amorally exploiting the anger of regular drivers.
    See also

    -another DAn

    Comment by anotherdan — September 16, 2005 @ 1:01 am

  4. is nothing but a fraud. Beware!
    I had 2 tickets that I used to contest because they claimed a guaranteed favorable result or your money back! Can’t go wrong, right? Wrong. I like many others followed their instructions and was found guilty. When I asked for my refund, they denied due to a claim they made in the fine print of their terms and conditions. They also said, on my 4th attempt at a refund, that I never asked for one and the time limit had passed. I even filed a report on BBB and their rebuttal was a printed copy of their terms and conditions.

    I have a pretty strong feeling that this website is one man at a computer who prints up the terms and conditions and sends that out as every reply.

    This site is more of a scam than the parking/traffic department. At least with them my money is going into my city’s system and not to some scam artist.

    Comment by beckham74 — January 3, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  5. I used them over 2 years ago. I was found guilty, but never filed an appeal.


    Because I never received anything from the city notifying me that I was guilty, nor an email from notifying me of this fact.

    So now I have a ticket with 2 years worth of late fees, God only know how much that is, because for 2 years I thought the ticket had been dismissed

    The form to fill out your ticket info is restricting making it very hard to fill it out EXACTLY as it appears on the ticket.

    Their CS just gives you the run around and no REAL answers.

    Comment by Chris — January 31, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

  6. Hi. I was also ripped off by If you google “ refund” you will get dozens and dozens of pages like this with peoples stories about getting ripped off.

    I was wondering that since this is some sort of legal/lawyer page/blog, is there anything we can do to stop from causing any more damage? I even came across a post by a former employer of that said himself the founder of “doesn’t care at all about the customers” and “it’s pure luck if you get dismissed” and “the boss spends all his time with a few execs. coming up with ways to make more money”.

    So is there anything that can be done to stop this lunatic??

    Comment by Abe — February 6, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  7. Hello, Abe. I’m sorry, but the retired lawyer who operates this weblog (me) is not able to take action to follow-up consumer complaints. Check out consumer protection authorities in your state — perhaps the attorney general’s office. Good luck.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 6, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

  8. If anoyones interested. I just added them to
    So please feel free to bash them there.

    Comment by Chris — February 19, 2008 @ 8:29 pm

  9. Well, when I was in the USA my friend (exchange student) showed me the website and service.

    Looked damn good, I should bring this to EU ;-)

    Comment by geld lenen — February 21, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

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