My client, “Daisy,” had slept in her car every day for three years while she looked for housing. One day, she woke up to find a parking citation.
At the time, this citation was the least of Daisy’s concerns. She was more focused on surviving in the streets on only $133 per month, her service-connected disability income from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Several months later, Daisy at last found temporary housing, began case management services and started receiving regular meals. Once stable, Daisy contacted me to resolve the outstanding parking citation, which she clearly could not afford, so that she could regain lawful use of her car and ultimately obtain permanent housing.
Clearing an outstanding parking citation may seem like a simple task, but I quickly learned there were few procedural remedies available to resolve parking citations. Since the California Vehicle Code only provides a narrow 21-day window in which to contest a parking citation, clients are left with few options once that window has passed. Daisy had clearly passed that deadline, and her late fee doubled the original fine so she now owed around $68, about half of her monthly income.
I first attempted—unsuccessfully—to resolve the matter with the City’s Citation Processing Center. On the phone, a staff person advised that Daisy’s only option was to pay the citation and late fees. Certain that there was more that could be done, I contacted various city officials on multiple occasions, but to no avail.
I determined that success on my mission required that I go directly to the top, so I contacted the City’s Mayor to make certain that the City was aware of Daisy’s situation and the need for justice. I formally requested assistance in dismissing the citation in the interest of justice. Persuaded by the facts of Daisy’s case and the letter I submitted, I received word within a week that Daisy’s citation had been voided. When I shared this news with Daisy, she was ecstatic. Now, she could renew her vehicle registration and lawfully use her car to attend medical appointments and search for housing.
Since Daisy’s case, I have several new clients with parking citations from several different cities. All survive on little income and are unable to pay. Each case poses a unique problem to be resolved by developing an accurate case history, drafting a compelling piece of advocacy explaining how dismissal serves justice, and having the tenacity to reach the right official with all the necessary information. When I saw how the resolution of her ticket helped Daisy’s outlook and strategies for the future, I truly understood the importance of this work. I foresee more interesting challenges ahead.