Policing the Placard


Policing the Placard

On October 4, 2017, California Senate Bill 611, written by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, giving the state the ability to use federal data to determine which disabled parking permit-holders have died, was signed into law by California Governor Brown. This year, its intentions are coming to fruition.

The law was proposed after research showed that up to 35,000 Disabled Person Parking Placards were in use by Californians who were actually dead. The law’s parameters employ the federal government’s Social Security Death Master File to help determine which disabled parking permit-holders are still with us, and which of them have passed on to the auto-free realm.

Individuals with disabled parking permits will now be asked to verify they are still alive.

A press release from the California Department of Motor Vehicles states, “The DMV is sending notices to Californians who have had their permanent Disabled Person Parking Placard for at least six years and asking them to confirm that they are still in need of one. The DMV will not renew placards for people who do not respond. This renewal requirement is one provision of prior legislation, SB 611, enacted in 2017 to curb fraud and abuse of Disabled Person Parking Placards.”

Now, permanent placards will be renewed every two years, but every six years, the user will have to show they’re alive and kicking. They can do that online or by mail. If they don’t get in touch with the DMV, they don’t get a new placard.

It’s a bold move using an existing database to compare placard holders’ names to legal notices of death and ask people to confirm they are still breathing, and I write that with complete irony. Still, we have to applaud the government clogs that finally budged and allowed his totally obvious solution to be carried out.

There are California laws that already apply to illegal use of a disabled placard. Police can check the name registered to the license plate of a vehicle against the name printed on the disabled placard. If you are arrested for using a disabled placard that is not yours, you can be charged with a misdemeanor, serve up to 6 months in county jail and pay a $1,000 fine.

It’s illegal to loan a placard, display a placard that is not issued to you, display a placard that is cancelled or revoked, and park in a handicapped spot using a disabled license plate that was issued to someone else.

Whether or not this sort of enforcement is carried out, knowing it could happen must deter those who’d like to use Grandpa’s placard for errands and events. However, 35,000 people feel comfortable with their chances of not being caught or penalized. That’s a lot of parking – and a lot of liars.

We’ve all seen someone park in a handicapped spot and then pop out of the car looking quite fit and able. My immediate thought is they’ve obtained the placard through fraudulent means or taken it from someone who legitimately needs it. 

I have to remind myself that there are many types of disabilities and that disabilities look different on different people, so it’s not my place to decide. I don’t have enough information to say if someone using a disabled placard is actually disabled or if they’ve just borrowed it from a disabled friend or relative.

The police have enough information to make these judgements – but they don’t have the time. And that’s been the hitch in the system. No enforcement means lots of abuse. It makes sense to place powers of enforcement in the party that issues the placards – the DMV.

Every state has its method for enforcing disabled parking regulations. In parts of Texas, volunteers are trained and empowered to give tickets to people who use disabled parking spaces without placards. Massachusetts has a hotline its citizens can call to report misuse of a disabled parking placard. 

Additionally, the association Paralyzed Veterans of America recommends reporting violations to the Department of Motor Vehicles of your state including the license plate number of the offending vehicle and the placard number. At drhandicap.com, you can find disabled parking information for every state and suggestions for helping reduce disabled parking fraud.

We’ll never completely outsmart people who feel justified in committing fraud. They want their free parking and they want it easy and up close – they don’t care about rules. But the system should be able to distinguish between those who are alive and dead – that is pretty straightforward.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
Only show results from:

Recent Articles

Send message to

    We use cookies to monitor our website and support our customers. View our Privacy Policy