A few weeks ago, I drove to Town Lake for one of my longer runs. Despite being around 11 am on a weekday, all of the parking spaces were full. I saw that some cars had driven onto a dirt area to park their cars, and I followed suit. After returning from my run, I found a $50 parking ticket on my windshield for parking in a “Tow Away Zone,” despite there being no sign that indicated it was such a zone. Needless to say, I was upset. Because I’d parked in this area on previous occasions, along with seeing other people regularly park there, I decided to contest the ticket. According to the City of Austin procedure, violators are entitled to a hearing if they come to the Municipal Court within 30 days of receiving a ticket. Also, being a criminal defense attorney, I figured it was my duty to fight the seemingly unfair ticket, rather than just pay it off. At the very least, I could receive valuable information on whether I had illegally parked at Town Lake.
Today, I prepared my evidence and got in line. After about a 15 minute wait, a “hearing officer” was ready to judge my case. The hearing is very informal, as it takes place in a small office with an audio recorder. After being sworn in, the officer asked me a few basic questions about the circumstances of me receiving the ticket. Then, she allowed me to present my side of the story. Using my three photographs as exhibits, I presented my case.
The first picture shows that there is a “No Parking” sign, but the arrows point to the left and right. To a reasonable person, this sign indicates that there is to be no parking in the roadway. To demonstrate that there was a roadway (and that I was not on this roadway), I showed this picture:
The hearing officer informed me that I was incorrect. She pointed out that there was a curb that I had to drive over in order to park in the dirt. I responded that it was a very low curb and functioned similar to a ramp, but she asked me whether it was indeed a curb. On this point, I agreed. She also questioned me whether there were any signs that indicated this was a legal parking area. I answered that there were none. Plus, the hearing officer pointed out that there are “2-hour parking” signs next to the legal spots. For these reasons, I was parking in an illegal area. She then proceeded to educate me regarding why the area consisted entirely of dirt: people like me park there, ruining the lush grass that had formerly been enjoyed by Austinites!
At this point, I was ready to leave, tail between my legs. This criminal defense attorney had been whipped, and I knew it. But, she stated that she was dismissing my ticket because I was correct when I initially pointed out that I was not in a “Tow Away Zone.” Instead, the ticket-writer should have indicated that I had parked in a “Right of Way” area. Due to the fact that my ticket had been improperly marked, I was relieved of any obligation to pay. Ah, a technicality – a defense attorney’s best friend.
That’s right, City of Austin, don’t mess with the baddest lawyer in town!