Friday, February 04, 2005

Finally

Some of you may remember getting riled up on my behalf after I mentioned this in an email back in September:

Excerpts from September email:

Stephanie got an unfair parking ticket nearly a year ago, wherein her car was ticketed and towed for being parked in a temporary no-parking zone that lacked a temporary no-parking sign. Even after the car was towed, there was no sign and I took pictures. Signs were eventually put up three days later.

She had to pay the ticket and towing and impound charges. For the ticket, we sent a letter with evidence, appealed, were denied, demanded a live hearing, went to the hearing, and though the woman seemed hostile, she decided in our favor and refunded the ticket money. The whole process took 7 or 8 months.

As for the towing and impound charges, which make up the bulk of the money taken from us, we went to a hearing, showed our evidence, got denied, sent an appeal to the city attorney, and were denied. We have a letter now that says we have 30 days (I don't know how many are left now) to do whatever the next step is, but at this point all the standard avenues of appeal have run out.

I might as well also add that at our hearing for the towing and impound charges, the ticketing officer (seemingly just a parking enforcement officer, not a real cop) showed up and told baldfaced lies about how there were signs when he was there. This could only have been true if construction crews were in the habit of posting signs, then removing them while construction was still in progress even though they were not in the way. Yet when it came down to his word against my
(admittedly digital) photos, we lost.

Anyway, after that hearing, we appealed to the city attorney, and eventually received this letter, which says:

"...After reviewing the circumstances of the claim and the applicable law, it has been determined that the claim should be denied.

This letter represents a formal notice to you that said claim has been denied. In view of this action, we are required by law to give you the following warning:

WARNING
Subject to certain exceptions, you have only six (6) months from the date this notice was [mailed] (8-24-04) to file a court action alleging state causes of action. The time within which federal causes of action must be filed is governed by federal statutes.

You may seek the advice of an attorney of your choice in connection with this matter. If you desire to consult an attorney, you should do so immediately."


Now, it says we have six months, but this ticket seriously happened almost a year ago. Like October or November. This is how long it takes for these things to process in LA. So getting an attorney to get in touch with them might actually take all six months, I guess.

But this no-sign ticket is intolerable. There was literally no way to comply with a sign that didn't exist. It would be wrong not to fight this to the end.

Is this letter basically saying that there's nothing else we can do without hiring an attorney over a matter of $160? Those fuckers.

The News:

First of all, thanks to Matt for his completely informal advice from a non-legal non-professional. After putting it off for several months, in January we finally contacted the city attorney's office to inquire about taking our case to small claims court. One morning, a few days after Stephanie sent her email about it, we got a phone call from the city attorney's office stating that they had decided to pay our claim. It took a bit of hassle for Stephanie to get in touch with the people who would make the payment, as they claimed at first not to know what she was talking about, but eventually the matter got straightened out, and yesterday Stephanie received her check for $160.

Finally, we had managed to get to a level where it was not worth the city's time and expense to cling to the $160, as opposed to all the previous levels of appeal, in which it really wasn't worth our time to try and get the money back. But we stuck it out, because going through all this trouble was never about the money, it was about justice, and our being punished unfairly. Granted, we will never get back the time and effort we spent fighting this thing, but we have won a symbolic moral victory. The city was wrong, and it finally backed down, even if it took a year and three months of appeals.

A year and three months to win back a $160 towing charge. Insanity.

3 comments:

lydia said...

congrats. As a person who may one day move to LA, I thank you for your hard work and determination.

C said...

congrats!

My dad had to fight a traffic ticket through Santa Monica. He had to go twice. Once to say he was pleading not guilty, and again for the actual court date. He won the cost of the ticket back (which they forced him to pay as bail). But no one paid him for his $14 in parking fees required to park at the courthouse.

Zack said...

Yeah, congratulations.

I wonder if there are any web sites dedicated to helping people navigate municipal bureaucratic bullshit, or at least devise a general strategy. WebMD for traffic tickets, something real simple, with a giant disclaimer on the top. A quick Google search turned up nothing for me, but maybe somebody else can do better?