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LA approves hefty fines for drivers who misuse disabled placards

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Abusing placards to claim parking spots is “particularly heinous,” says one councilmember

Disabled placard
Placards allow those with disabling conditions to more easily find parking, but LA councilmembers say they are frequently misused.
David Tonelson/Shutterstock

Los Angeles drivers who hang fraudulent or expired disabled placards in their vehicles to snag prime parking spots could soon face stiff fines when caught doing so.

Local laws already make it illegal to use placards that are lost, stolen, or belong to someone who’s not in the vehicle, but on Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to hit violators with a fine of $1,100, the maximum penalty allowed under state law.

“Abusing disabled placards is a particularly heinous thing to do,” said City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield Tuesday. Blumenfield, who introduced a motion in January calling for the fines, said that monetary penalties were necessary to prevent unscrupulous drivers from taking advantage of a system meant to aid people with disabling conditions.

With a placard, drivers can use disabled parking spaces, park in metered spots without paying, and can disregard posted time limits for on-street spaces.

“You are either taking a spot away from someone who really needs it, or you are abusing that privilege and diluting it and making it difficult for everybody else to get around Los Angeles,” Blumenfield said prior to the council vote.

Without a city-specific fine structure in place, violators of rules regulating use of disabled placards can be charged $250 in Los Angeles, the state’s minimum fine. Blumenfield says steeper charges will better discourage would-be offenders.

It’s not clear how frequently disabled placards are misused by Los Angeles drivers, but Blumenfield maintains that the problem is “widespread."

In September, the California DMV, which enforces placard abuse, revealed that it had given out 345 citations during four enforcement operations at the LA County Fair. According to the DMV, one in six drivers with placards at the fair was found to be misusing them.

The new fine system now awaits Mayor Eric Garcetti’s signature.