Parking ticket : how to do it, and why it's not always easy

Beating Parking Tickets

Beating Parking Tickets

Parking ticket: Oh, how I hate you…

If you are like me, nothing annoys you more than returning to your parked car to find the little yellow parking ticket stuck underneath your windshield wiper. Unfortunately, once that little yellow paper is tucked neatly under your wiper, you don’t have many options.

My advice then?  Just pay the damn thing and forget it as soon as possible.  It reduces the length of time you remain annoyed (this is less legal advice than wellness advice)

When can you beat the parking ticket?

But what do you do when, upon arrival to your car, the parking enforcement people are in the process of writing you up?  In this case, you actually have an option.  But you must act quickly. Engaging enforcement officials in conversation will only give them more time to complete their task.  You want to get in and drive off as soon as possible.

Does that seem rude or even illegal? It may be rude, but it’s certainly not illegal.  Let me explain. Until the yellow parking ticket is tucked under your wiper blade, the process of ticketing you is not complete.  Parking officials must identify the infraction, and then serve you with the ticket.

Process to issue a parking ticket

If you park downtown regularly, you will have noticed parking enforcement staff walking around looking through windshields to ensure your parking notice is still valid.  When they find expired parking notices, they start the process of writing the parking ticket.

They must complete the details of the circumstances surrounding the issuing of the ticket.  They write down the time, location, licence plate and check off the box corresponding to the infraction i.e. expired ticket or parking in no-parking zone.

Once that process is complete, they must serve you with the parking ticket. They do so by placing it under your wiper blade.  To show that it was properly served, they take a picture of your rear licence plate and another picture of the ticket on your windshield.

Small window of opportunity

Until they finish the process, you have an opportunity to leave. Parking enforcement staff do not have the power to detain you, unlike police officers who do.

So, if you arrive at your vehicle and parking enforcement staff have not placed the parking ticket on your windshield yet, you are free to start your car and leave. Don’t talk to them. Just leave.

Personal experience

no parking sign
No parking sign

I actually did this a few years ago.  It felt great!  I felt like I “beat the system”.  In actual fact though I didn’t beat the system at all.  I simply held the city to the legal standards imposed on them when issuing tickets.

But they didn’t make it easy…..

I was parked outside of the Grace Hospital in Winnipeg.  I had been at emergency with my daughter. At two or three in the morning, after the doctor finally saw her, he decided to keep her in overnight for observation.

I was tired and decided to go home to get some rest.  As I walked back to my car, the only one parked on the street at that time, a city of Winnipeg vehicle was stationed behind my car with the hazard lights on.

I realized as I was walking up that the driver was filling out a parking ticket. A quick glance at the signs showed me that I had long overstayed my welcome.  I didn’t notice the signs when I parked as I was meeting my daughter at the hospital.

Driving Off

I walked right by him and jumped in the car and drove away. I could hear him yelling behind me as I drove off.

A week or so later, I got the ticket he wrote in the mail. I suspect the enforcement staff member was rather irate at my quick escape.  Rather than paying it, I attended the “Parking Store” on Portage Avenue to advise them the ticket was improperly issued.  I was hoping they would just drop the charge then.

Parking Office

The staff there pulled up the pictures in the system in an attempt to show me how futile my efforts were. Presumably, her intention was to show me the evidence (pictures of the licence plate and the served ticket on the windshield).  Fortunately for me, they had only one picture, the one of my back licence plate.

Despite the lack of evidence, she still tried to get me to pay for the parking ticket by offering me a deal at half the cost of the ticket.  I then had to tell her I was a lawyer and that in my opinion the ticket was not valid. My only option was to set the matter for trial.  I asked for a trial date.

Crown Attorney’s role

She reluctantly gave me one. About a month before the trial, I received a letter from the Crown Attorney’s office advising that they were staying the charge (staying is the equivalent of dropping).

I found it unfortunate that the matter had to wind it’s way through the system to a crown attorney before they would stop prosecuting. Why didn’t someone exercise some discretion  much earlier in the process?

Just think of the government resources used to push this through.  The enforcement staff spent time going back to the office, searched my licence plate and sent the parking ticket in the mail.  I had to take time to attend the Parking Office.  There, the staff spent time searching through the system only to find insufficient evidence. But that wasn’t enough.  They still set a trial date – meaning that someone somewhere else had to process that.  Finally a crown attorney had to review the ticket and send me further correspondence.

Moral of the story

The moral of the story is that even though enforcement officials improperly issued the parking ticket, enforcement agencies whether they be parking enforcement staff of the city or police officers, will not assist you in asserting your rights. In fact, the system may actively work against you, as it did in my case.

Had I not been a lawyer, I would have most likely paid the ticket when I received it in the mail or when I attempted to set a trial date.

Disclaimer – Legalese

I appreciate the irony of this disclaimer, but while I am critical of the rules, I must still play by them, so here goes….This article is presented for informational purposes only. The content does not constitute legal advice or solicitation and does not create a solicitor client relationship (this means that I am not your lawyer until we both agree that I am). If you are seeking advice on specific matters, please contact Philippe Richer at, or 204.925.1900. We cannot consider any unsolicited information sent to the author as solicitor-client privileged (this means confidential).

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