By Alex Distefano
In a lagging economy, any punitive fines—be they parking tickets, moving violations or other infractions—can be aggravating to deal with and pay—especially if you want to appeal your citation, since it’s mandatory to pay the fine first, before the appeal process can even begin.
While that might be the way things are, Steve Carr isn’t buying it. As far as he’s concerned, this practice of being forced to pay before you appeal a parking ticket is nothing short of extortion. Perhaps not surprisingly, Carr says that the city of Claremont is extorting him in just such a way—in the form of two parking tickets he is vehemently fighting.
Carr, who is from Indiana, and works in education and research, says that it was during a work-related trip to the Inland Empire in early March that he received two separate overnight parking tickets in Claremont. But, according to Carr, even though he is now aware of the city’s restrictions on overnight parking, he insists the signs were inadequately posted, which is unfair to people not from the area.
Well, Claremont isn’t buying it.
Carr said he stayed with a friend in Claremont since he was giving a presentation at Claremont College. According to Carr, after arriving at John Wayne Airport, he rented a car and drove to his destination in the Inland Empire. “After parking, I checked to see if there were any parking signs, and I didn’t see any on the street so I parked my car there, and left it overnight for two days,” Carr said. “I even asked the person I was staying with and the person was not aware there are overnight restrictions in the city.”
Carr said he was shocked to find two citations on his car after two days, wondering why he got them in a residential area. Carr said that each ticket was $35 dollars each and it made no difference that I was in a rental car. “Congratulations to the City of Claremont and its Police Department for developing both a clever and entirely legal method of imposing extortionate entrance fees upon unsuspecting out-of-town visitors,” Carr says. “Not beholden to the dull and conventional practice of actually posting parking restrictions on a street, the City does make sure to post the smallest and most inconspicuous signs at the city perimeter.”
Carr said that after initial complaints to parking enforcement and the Claremont Police Department from his home state of Indiana, he was told that there were signs, just off Interstate 10 for all entering the city limits to read. But he vehemently disagrees, and insists they are not large enough for people to read, and are misleading. “The sign after the Indian Hill Boulevard exit off of the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway is easily missed,” Carr says. “Even if an eagle-eyed motorist does catch the sign, posted lower and away from other traffic signs, the ‘no overnight parking’ sign could just as easily refer to the parking lot for a strip mall located there. This miniscule placard was the only indication of the citywide parking ordinance for the particular route I drove.”
Carr, who already is on his third appeal, said this is unfair to out-of-town visitors, and for this reason he feels that he was not given an adequate warning.
“I’ve already gone through two levels of appeals and now they referred me to a court that is now closed in Los Angeles,” Carr says. “As a result of getting that misinformation, now my appeals process is further delayed. Throughout the process they kept insisting what they did was legal and there were no problems in how the citation was issued.”
But according to Mike Ciszek, a spokesperson for the Claremont Police Department, there is only one way to win an appeal and get your ticket overturned.
“The only time we can dismiss a ticket or citation for parking is if the officer issues it in an obvious error.” Ciszek says. “If they don’t think they think this is unfair, or that they don’t deserve the ticket for whatever reason, that doesn’t qualify to get it dismissed.” Ciszek also adds that although he cannot speak for other jurisdictions, there is no way around paying the fine first, before you appeal.
Ciszek says that, for the most part, this is an issue of behaviors, and that when it comes to out-of-town visitors, the responsibility lies in their friends who live in the area. “People who live here also need to do their part and tell their friends and visitors there is no overnight parking,” Ciszek says. “In terms of people claiming they don’t see the signs and notices, Ciszek states, “Every entrance into the city has ‘no parking overnight’ signs posted. Now, obviously if we were to put a sign every 20 feet the city would be inundated with parking signs. But, we feel confident that there are an adequate amount of signs posted.”
But, for Carr, this is not enough, and he doesn’t plan to give up.
“I will take this as far as I need to take this, to make a point, l because it’s the principle of the matter,” he says. “They are basically coercing me into pay this fine that I feel I should not have to pay. There are other people out there in this situation they need to come forward.”