An article in LA Times about someone parking on a disabled parking space without the disabled person being in the car:

(...) I saw a woman pull into a disabled parking space and begin to exit her car.

Two men in plain clothes flashed badges as they approached the car. One of them asked to see the registration slip that went with the disabled placard that hung from the driver’s rearview mirror.

It turned out that the placard was in the name of her son, but he wasn’t in the car. So the officers confiscated the placard, which her son will have to reapply for, and wrote her a citation.

I have a hard time understanding how one can get a citation for this? My wife is disabled (in France, so the laws may vary) and I sometimes park, alone, in the disabled spot in order to bring her to the car (or wait for her to come).

The disabled parking space is there to help disabled people, when they arrive to the place, but also when they leave from it. Both do not always happen in sequence (I can drop someone off, or wait for someone to get to the car).

I would be ideally interested in a French (or EU) perspective (but still keeping it open as the article is from the US)

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    While it makes sense to me that the women should be fined if she used the disabled placard without her son benefiting it does concern me that the officers were so quick to pounce on her. Not all disabilities are obvious and harassing disabled individuals making them prove their disabilities seems like a pretty harmful experience to someone with a disability. I'd rather risk someone abusing the disabled parking then risk harassing legitimate disabled individuals. Likewise taking the son's placard away due to mother's abuse seems to be harming someone with legitimate need unduly.
    – dsollen
    Jan 24, 2019 at 16:59
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    @dsollen While in general I agree with you, disabled parking spots are a limited resource. I'm not disabled, but I would think people would rather be stopped occasionally rather than not have a spot at all. Jan 24, 2019 at 17:35
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    @dsollen I had the same initial reaction to the son losing the placard, but I think it might be appropriate. It's his placard to use or abuse as he chooses, and he may have chosen to abuse it by giving it to someone else. If she took it without his knowledge, only then would I agree the punishment is undue. Jan 24, 2019 at 18:47
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    @dsollen My son is disabled, we use a blue badge (UK version of a placard). I would far rather justify its use every time we park, than have to turn around and go home because people are taking up the limited spaces without cause. Also, in the guidance we received when we got the Blue Badge, it specified that if it was used improperly it would be confiscated and we would need to reapply.
    – Phil
    Jan 25, 2019 at 8:52
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    @dsollen As the article states, they're checking to see that the placard is issued to the person using it, not that the person is actually disabled (certification of disability status is done by medical professionals of your choice before you apply for the placard in California). They're not testing you in the middle of the parking lot to see whether you're really disabled; they're checking to see whether you're using somebody else's placard: "about 30% of the time, the placard is stolen, altered or issued to someone else, not necessarily among the living." Jan 26, 2019 at 0:32

2 Answers 2


There isn't any indication in that news story that the disabled son was anywhere nearby. I agree the situation you describe sounds like a legitimate use of the placard, but it seems in this situation, the placard was being used in a manner totally unrelated to the transport of a disabled person. My guess is that the cops cited her because the son wasn't in the car, and was not inside the establishment at which she parked.

California code has this to say:

A person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued may permit another person to use the placard only while in the presence or reasonable proximity of the disabled person for the purpose of transporting the disabled person.

So as long as the disabled person is within a "reasonable proximity", and the placard is being used to transport them, they do not have to be inside the car to make using the placard legitimate. In this case, the woman was just transporting herself and using the placard anyway, which is illegal.

  • I can see how this answer would justify a fine or whatever the punishment is for parking in that spot without a permit. But I don't see how it justifies confiscating the placard which doesn't belong to the offender but rather belongs to a disabled person who is one of the people who these rules are intended to protect in the first place.
    – kasperd
    Jan 26, 2019 at 13:41
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    @kasperd The presumption is that the disabled person permitted the placard to be used in this manner, and thus was complicit. If the disabled person wants to claim that the placard was stolen / used without permission / etc., that may be grounds for having it returned / reissued. Jan 26, 2019 at 16:29
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    @GrandOpener We don't have enough information to know. To me it sounded more likely that the placard simply was in the car because it was the car he'd usually be using it in. And he had given them permission to use the card but not explicitly given them permision to use the placard which just happened to be in the car. And maybe the mother didn't understand the rules and though the permit had been granted to the car rather than to a person. But then again we don't know, so maybe there was a good reason.
    – kasperd
    Jan 26, 2019 at 16:43
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    @kasperd The "presumption" I was talking about is of the law in general--I make no assumption about the people described in the LA Times article. Either the placard is under control of its owner and being used with permission (the "presumed" case, barring any accusation) or it is stolen/used without permission. Jan 26, 2019 at 20:03
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    Surely this is the right answer. If she was just picking up her son from the shop, she would have told the officers and they would have escorted her in to confirm that. If she was picking up her son and told them so and they continued with the confiscation/citation, IANAL but it sounds like it would result in a lawsuit. (Also, I hope the son is an adult who knowingly let his mother do this, and not a 10-year-old who now has to suffer while she re-applies....)
    – Keiki
    Jan 28, 2019 at 13:34

Had the driver been able to prove that they were picking up the disabled person, the ticket should never have been issued and the permit never confiscated. It would have made sense if the disabled person was proved to be somewhere else at that time. I think in most countries the pass isn't necessarily for the driver, but for the vehicle to be used to transport a disabled person, in order they can get out and visit shops, etc.As in the card is for the person, who can use it in whichever vehicle they are being ferried round in.

What I can't understand is a vehicle with a disabled badge carrying the disabled person, parking in a disabled bay, and the driver doing the shopping while the disabled person sits in the car.

In England, it's common for abuse of disabled parking spaces, and nothing appears to be done. In France, it's extremely rare to see them abused. Folklore has it that large stickers can be put on the windscreen of those who shouldn't be using them.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Sep 30, 2019 at 3:54

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