Definition and Aspects of Misuse of Handicap Placards:
Under California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461), it is against the law to misuse a handicapped disability parking placard or handicapped license plate. Violators of this statute (VC 4461) can be convicted with an infraction or a misdemeanor. Additionally, a convicted person could spend time in jail and be responsible for expensive fines.
A disabled placard is a large blue tag that is meant to be hung on the disabled person’s rearview mirror. It is a blue card with a wheelchair symbol on it, also known as the ‘International Symbol of Access.’
Any of the below examples are individually violations of California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461):
- Lending disability placard or plate to an unauthorized person for use
- Utilizing another’s disability placard or plate
- Wrongfully utilizing a handicapped parking space
The only exception of the qualifications listed above is if the Defendant, who himself/herself is not disabled, is driving a disabled person. In this scenario, the Defendant is using it to aid the owner of the placard or license plate directly.
Examples of Misuse of Handicap Placards:
In the first example of the above-listed violations, a man legally qualified for a disability placard. Being a good friend, he lends the placard to his neighbor for the day to run some errands. While the man has legal and valid possession of the placard, it is not meant to be used by his neighbor. By knowingly landing it to someone else who is not authorized, the man could be convicted of California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461).
Following on the above example, if the neighbor accepts the placard and uses it for any amount of time, he/she is also in violation of California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461) and could be convicted as well. The placard or license plate is strictly meant for the disabled person’s use only.
In a different example, a man has a disabled wife. The wife legally owns a vehicle with a special handicapped license plate. The husband does not have a disability; therefore, his car is not equipped with a handicap placard or plate. When the man knows he has to go downtown for work, he specifically takes his wife’s car so that he could utilize the handicapped spots. This action counts as a misuse of a handicapped license plate, and the man could be charged.
On the other hand, if the man and his wife drive together in the wife’s car, it is not against the law. Even if the husband is the one driving, since his wife legally owns the handicapped plate, as he is transporting her, he is allowed to park in handicapped spots.
Types of Handicap Placards:
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) grants the below types of handicap placards:
- Temporary parking placard
- Available for someone with a temporary disability
- The placard is valid for up to 6 months and expires by either the date noted by the medical professional or six months from issuance
- There is a fee of $6.00 for the application
- The card is renewable for up to 6 consecutive times
- Permanent parking placard
- Available for someone with a permanent disability
- The placard is valid for two years and expires on June 30th of every odd-numbered year
- There is no fee associated with the placard
- It is issued by a medical professional; no additional medical recertification is required at renewal
- Travel parking placard for California residents
- At no charge, a California resident with a permanent handicap placard can obtain a travel parking placard to utilize while traveling or renting a car within California
- This placard is good for 30 days after being issued
- Travel parking placard for nonresidents
- At no charge, a non-California resident with a permanent disability can obtain a placard to use within California
- This placard is good for 90 days after being issued or the date noted by the medical professional on the applicationUnlike the disability placard, a disabled parking license plate can only be applied to one vehicle, which must be registered to the person with the permanent disability. Other than the restriction for one car, a DP plate serves the same purpose as the placard.
Criminal Offenses Related to Misuse of Handicap Placards:
Similar or related offenses to California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461), Misuse of Handicap Placards:
- Providing False Information to the DMV or CHP – California Vehicle Code 20 (VC 20)
- False Information to a Police Officer – California Vehicle Code 31 (VC 31)
- Forging or Falsifying Vehicle Registration – California Vehicle Code 4463 (VC 4463)
- Forging or Possessing a Fraudulent Public Seal – California Penal Code 472 (PC 472)
Defenses to Misuse of Handicap Placards:
If the Defendant, while not handicapped himself/herself, is transporting a disabled person, the charges should be dropped. While the misuse of handicap placards (VC 4461) is against the law by itself, utilizing it to aid the rightful owner of the placard or plate is an exception.
Additionally, if a Defendant is a disabled person and his/her car has been utilized without his/her permission or knowledge, the Defendant would not be violating California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461). While lending someone a handicap placard is against the law, if it was taken without the Defendant’s knowledge, he/she would not be responsible.
Consequences and Penalty for Misuse of Handicap Placards:
California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461), the Misuse of Handicap Placards is a ‘wobblette’ offense. This means that if convicted, the Defendant could either be charged with a civil infraction or a criminal misdemeanor, depending on the details of the crime and the history of the Defendant.
If a person is convicted of a civil infraction, the punishment is in the form of fines only. The minimum penalty for misusing a disabled placard is $250, and the maximum punishment is $1,000. If the convicted person refuses to pay the fine, he/she can be charged with the crime of failure to appear or pay for a traffic citation.
If the Defendant gets convicted with a misdemeanor for Misuse of Handicap Placards (VC 4461), the penalty is up to six months in county jail and a fine between $250 – $1,000. Additionally, the convicted person could be sentenced to probation in the form of additional fines, community service, or counseling.
Lastly, if a person wrongfully utilizes a handicapped spot or zone, the court can order an additional fine of up to $1,500. Cities or counties also reserve the right to add an additional $100 penalty.
Misuse of Handicap Placards, under California Vehicle Code 4461 (VC 4461), is a wobblette offense that can result in jail time and severe fines. It is essential that if you or someone you know is charged with misusing a handicapped plate or placard, you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
For an experienced attorney on your side, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record of vehicle law and driving charges and speaking both English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Vehicle Code Section 4461 (VC 4461), Misuse of Handicap Placards. Book a free consultation today.