"It Was an
Of all the
general defenses that you can use when hit by a parking ticket, medical
probably my favorite.
Of course, if
you’re having a medical emergency
most likely no picnic for you - and a parking ticket is the absolute last thing
on your mind. But once your emergency is over (and hopefully all is well) you
can begin to appreciate just how great a defense a medical emergency is.
The reason that the “medical emergency
is so wonderful is that it’s unbelievably sweeping. Parked at a fire hydrant? No
problem. Left your car in a bus zone? No worries. Pulled over into a handicapped
spot? “Fuhgedd-about-it.” It’s all good.
So what’s the catch?
There is none. But before you rush out and claim that your car
was parked there because of an emergency
are a few things that you’d better know. Call these mini-catches.
involve a human being. No joke. As a judge I’ve seen people claim that they had
to park at a hydrant because their cat was having kidney problems, or their
kid’s hamster had a broken leg and even, in one memorable case, that the pet dog
was vomiting all over their car’s brand-new leather interior.
None of these are what the Parking Bureau will admit were real
“medical emergencies.” And sure, we all know that’s a bit unfair. After all, who
wants dog puke all over the new car? Not to mention the grief your child will
give you if the beloved family cat dies of kidney failure. But take heed: the
next time that you want to tell the judge you took the handicapped spot because
your bird stopped chirping or because your lizard lost its camouflaging skills -
don’t say that you weren’t warned. A “medical emergency”
But let’s say that your emergency
a real human being. Homo sapiens. Hell, let’s say you don’t even like
animals - or that your idea of an afternoon sport is to cause a few deer to have
“medical emergencies” that they won’t recover from. Does that mean you’re in the
Because your idea of an “emergency”
and a parking judge’s idea of an emergency don’t always match.
Which brings us to:
The need to pee is not a medical emergency.
This is a fun one. A mother with a mini-van stuffed with kids
pulls over into a no standing
because no less than three of her darlings are screaming that they’ll pee in
their undies if they don’t get relief.
Do I feel pity for her? Do I ever. But unless she can find
some other excuse, she’s probably going to wish she just paid for a Laundromat
instead. It’s bound to be cheaper than the fine that the Parking Bureau says not
to even mitigate (more on that later).
Or how about the truck driver who’s been on the road all night,
drowning himself in coffee that now desperately wants to escape from him? Er,
better hold it in a bit longer there, mister - at least until you find somewhere
legal to park. Because you’re not going to get much sympathy from the judge.
(Not sympathy that will help you, at any rate; however much we feel inside, we
still have to uphold the law as interpreted by the City).
Or my personal favorite, mostly because the guy who wrote it
tried to be a bit sneaky: The story about a patient who had urological problems
(so far so good - and he even supplied a doctor’s note) and he therefore had to
stop to urinate immediately. Because his bladder simply couldn’t hold it in.
Which would have been a great defense, had he been driving when the urge came.
But this bloke was charged with overtime parking - and he had already been
parked there for 40 minutes too long when he got the ticket! Now if only the
doctor had written that it often took his patient an hour to urinate...
Which brings us to the point: if you really can’t hold
it in and you must park illegally, at the very least try to park in a place
where the fine is relatively light because you probably will be paying
I should add that new parking judges always feel bad about having to uphold
fines in these kinds of cases - but it’s nothing compared to:
an automatic get-out-of-this-ticket-free card.
Every so often a husband will write in that he had no choice
but to double park in front of his building, because his eight-month pregnant
wife needed to lie down, pronto. And he needed to help her up the stairs. The
first time I saw this I ended up getting scolded by a senior judge for wanting
to give the guy a break.
“She needed to lie down?” The senior judge (who was a woman) asked. “Needing
to lie down isn’t an emergency.
If it was a real emergency, the only place he would have been double
parking in front of is a hospital.”
So the poor guy ended up with a whopping fine - and my unspoken
sympathy. [If he had helped her just to the curb, I could’ve done something for
him, as you’re allowed to drop off a passenger while double parked, and she
could have been considered a person needing assistance to exit the car].
The next time I encountered the “pregnant defense” was a
nine-month pregnant woman who pulled over at a bus stop because her vision
blurred. Unlike the first case, here – finally! – was a real “medical emergency.”
After all, the last thing any city needs is a driver who’s feeling dizzy, or
whose vision is off. And pregnant women are more believable (sorry, guys) when
it comes to sudden spells of feeling faint.
My advice? If you’re trying to get out of a ticket because
you’re pregnant, you’re only likely to succeed if there was something genuinely
wrong – and a doctor’s note sure would help. [No guarantees, though; I know of
one judge who found a husband guilty even though the doctor’s note testified
that his wife was busy giving birth and desperately wanted the father with her].
Speaking of doctors, I ought to mention:
Having a doctor’s appointment does not mean it was a
It seems silly, at first blush, that this one is true – but
there it is. Let’s say that you’re having a stomach problem. You call up your
gastroenterologist, she says to come right over and you, grateful for the quick
appointment, park wherever you can. In your state of mind, all you can think
is: To hell with the fire department – there are, after all, other hydrants on
So you get a ticket, plead a medical emergency and even get the
M.D. to write up your whole medical history to back you up. [In some cases, I
should add, the M.D. feels compelled to add in a financial hardship argument too
– I’ve seen doctors’ notes that seem to be more about complaining about not
getting paid than about their patient’s condition]. And you breathe easy.
Only you shouldn’t. Because, fair or not, the judge is likely
to tell you that any scheduled appointment, by definition, is not such an
couldn’t take the time to park legally. Oops. So much for sympathy.
But don’t fret too much, because doctors themselves can’t
always be “physicians that help themselves,” due to:
Doctors don’t always get off.
I deal more with this in the chapter devoted to doctors, but
for here, let me say this: An emergency
emergency. Pulling over to the curb to make a phone call because you’re on call
or visiting a patient whose disease/injury is not life-threatening or urgent
just won’t cut it. And, really, you don’t have to be so snotty when you write
in your plea. (And no, I’ve nothing against doctors).
TO READ MORE, ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY