Hypothetical question. I was in Madison, Wisconsin last week. I parked in a municipal lot, paid at the automated kiosk, and got a receipt. When I returned, about 20 minutes before the end of the time that I had paid for, I found I had been ticketed for parking at an expired meter. The time stamp on the ticket was five minutes after the time on my receipt, so my assumption is that the data from the meter hadn’t caught up with the people actually doing parking enforcement when they came through.

I followed the appeal process, and included photos of my receipt and the ticket. Within a day, I got an email and PDF letter stating that the ticket had been voided on review. So, happy ending. However, during this process, my brain had been playing a whole series of “what if” scenarios for the appeal being denied. The one I couldn’t come up with an answer for was: Given that I had paid for parking before the ticket was written, would denial of my appeal mean that I could file a claim against the City of Madison and get the money I paid to park refunded? Or, at least, counted as a credit against the expired meter fine?

It’s been 30 years since I lived full-time in Wisconsin, and my knowledge of Wisconsin Statutes is limited, to be generous. From what I was able to look up online, I don’t think that the claim is specifically barred by State statute, and the City of Madison’s website makes it very easy to start the claim process. I did find that for claims against the State, the Claims Board won’t hear a claim for damages of less than ten dollars, but that only applies for claims against the State of Wisconsin itself and not local governments. So, would I have a leg to stand on with this hypothetical claim? Thanks!

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    Honestly they should be refunding your parking cost as well. They wasted your time with an illegitimate ticket. data being "not caught up" is not your fault. They own the system. They are liable for its defects. You should have received damages when you won the appeal. Or at least a sincere apology. Aug 9, 2021 at 16:38
  • @Billy C. - There is a part of my brain that agrees with you. However, I’ve worked for the State of New York for long enough to realize that that kind of thing happens rarely in the bureaucracy. Sometimes, the best you can hope for is no damage. TL;DR “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.” Aug 10, 2021 at 12:23
  • That part of your brain is the rational human part. You should be encouraging it, helping it grow and influence yourself and others, not push it to the back where it can wither and die. Aug 11, 2021 at 14:58
  • It’s actually the part I have to keep hidden for a couple more years. I’ve got kids to feed, and you can’t beat working for the government when it comes to time off for the kiddies. I’ve missed one school band concert, total, due to work. Plus I got to be the one to stay home when they were sick. No way I’d trade that for anything. Couple more years, when the youngest finishes school, and then I can fly. Aug 11, 2021 at 22:27

2 Answers 2


No. To claim a refund of the parking fees, you would need to claim you actually paid them. The moment that is proven, the citation becomes invalid and unenforceable.

There is no use-case where both your parking payment and the citation are valid.

Note that there are several scams which may apply here. First is a third party scam where the ticket is physically left by criminals and the payment address or website is theirs (not the city's). Second is where the municipality (or more likely, a for-profit company they've contracted out enforcement to) intentionally issues tickets that are not yet valid, purely on the hopes they get lucky. Both of these are the crime of fraud.

  • I’m accepting this answer because the scam warning adds value to the answer, in my opinion. It also dovetails with my reflex reaction when I first noticed the ticket. On further reflection, though, I decided that Hanlon’s Razor should be applied, i.e., “cock-up before conspiracy.” Aug 10, 2021 at 12:31

No. A ruling denying your appeal would imply a ruling that your evidence was not credible and that they concluded that you hadn't paid for the parking time, or that the time you had paid for had expired when the ticket was given (e.g. because either the meter or the parking ticket printer hadn't updated to daylight savings time).

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