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What happens if you illegally park in a spot for disabled persons? What NC law says

Charlotte Observer - 10/24/2023

In North Carolina, you can get special identification methods to allow you to park in accessible, up-front parking spots. These identification methods, which go either inside or outside of your car, are available for many people with a variety of disabilities.

All other states offer accessible parking spaces as well, according to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

If a person without a special license plate or placard parks in one of these designated spots, what kinds of repercussions could they face?

The News & Observer combed through NC laws for answers.

Note: “Handicapped” according to the ADA National Network, is “an outdated and unacceptable term” when referring to people or environments, such as parking spaces. This story instead uses the word “accessible” when writing about these designated parking spots.

When can I park in accessible spots?

You must have distinguishable identification to legally park in a spot intended for people with disabilities, per NC law.

These identification methods include license plates and removable windshield placards.

If you have one of these identification methods, you can park in parking spots designated for people with disabilities.

What are van accessible spots? When can I park there?

Van accessible spots are larger parking spaces marked with striped aisles. They are large enough for wheelchair transfer, walker use and ramps and lifts.

Smaller vehicles — and people who do not use walkers, even if they do not drive a van — should avoid these spots and keep them available for vans and others who need them.

Anyone who parks in a van accessible spot needs proper distinguishable identification. The same placards and license plates (detailed above) are acceptable methods of identification.

What happens if you park in an accessible spot without a permit?

There are two scenarios:

1. If you do not have a disability placardand illegally park in an accessible space, you could be fined and/or towed.

Violations carry penalties from $100 to $250, and law enforcement officers may order a violating vehicle to be towed to open the space back up for people who need the accessible space.

It is also illegal to “block or obstruct curb cut or curb ramp” for people with disabilities, and you may face the same penalty.

Accessible parking spots are required by NC law to have signs stating the maximum penalty for illegally parking there.

2. If you have a disability placard but do not display it in/on your vehicle, you can still get hit with a fine and possibly towed. Law enforcement officers use the identification methods — the placard and/or the plate — to determine who is parked legally and illegally.

What can you do if you got a ticket for parking in a spot reserved for someone with a disability?

You may choose to contest the ticket.

If you were ticketed in Raleigh, for example, you can file an online citation appeal at raleighparking.rmcpay.com.

If that doesn’t work, you can then go to an adjudication hearing, which first requires you to pay the fee in full (to be refunded if the independent adjudicator decides in your favor).

For more information about this system in Raleigh, visit raleighnc.gov/parking.

Does Raleigh offer accessible street parking?

Yes. There are 22 accessible parking spaces between downtown Raleigh and Glenwood South, and there are six accessible spaces along Hillsborough Street, according to a recent Tweet from the city of Raleigh.

Raleigh’s parking pay stations allow those with valid placards or license plates to purchase as much as time as they may need, and it can exceed the time limit in one payment. This can help avoid people from making return visits to the meter.

To use Raleigh’s accessible street parking options, do the following:

(Source: raleighnc.gov)

Are North Carolina’s disability plates, placards acceptable in other states?

Yes. Other states recognize North Carolina’s license plates and placards when parking in accessible spots, according to the DMV’s website.

Additionally, North Carolina’s law enforcement recognized valid placards from other states and countries.

How can I get a disability plate, placard in North Carolina?

The DMV issues these identifiers — a rear-view mirror placardor a license plate — to people who are unable to walk without assistance or to people with other mobility impairments, which can be caused by a variety of disabilities and illnesses.

These identification methods require an application, which requires a signaturefrom a medical professional or authorized individual. (Note: You must be re-certified by a physician every five years.)

They can be obtained same-day at a NCDMV license plate agency. You can also complete and mail forms, then receive your materials within a few weeks.

Placards are required to be displayed from the vehicle’s rear view mirror, and license plates (just like any other plate) must be on the back of the vehicle.

Placards and temporary placards (which are valid up to six months) are $5 each, and you’re limited to two. License plates are $36 each.

For more information, visit ncdot.gov/dmv. Call (919) 715-7000 with questions.

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