California Vehicle Code §4461(b) makes it unlawful for someone to use a handicap placard for something other than it’s purpose. It allows for a person who has not been issued the handicap placard to use it, if the person for whom it has been issued is in close proximity or is being transported. It has been previously mentioned by many Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys that this is a serious charge that should not be taken lightly.
The statute itself outlines the possible consequences as follows:
A violation of this subdivision is subject to the issuance of a notice of parking violation imposing a civil penalty of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), for which enforcement shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Article 3 (commencing with Section 40200) of Chapter 1 of Division 17 or is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both that fine and imprisonment.
Please note that the violation is described as a range, and not a set amount, or set period of jail time. This is because each case varies and each person who stands before the Judge has a different story to tell. The range allows for the Judge to have some discretion in issuing penalties.
For example, one person may have two previous convictions on their record and have knowingly committed fraud by using the placard even though they were not authorized to do so. Another person may have a completely clean record and have unknowingly used the placard without intending to do so. The person who had no intent and no record, will not face the same level of consequence as the person who intended to commit the crime.
Additionally you will notice that the potential penalties outlined by the statute vary greatly. The statute states on one had that the penalty may be a parking citation or violation with a fine of anywhere between $250 to $1000. And on the other hand, it also specifies that the consequence may be anywhere between a fine of the same, and imprisonment for not more than six months.
This is because this charge is what is referred to as a “wobbler”. A wobbler is a charge that can either be charged as an infraction, or as a misdemeanor. This will depend on the facts of the case, the background of the person being charged, and the discretion of the Judge, Prosecutor and the law enforcement officer.
Due to the subjective nature of the charge, it is very important to seek the help of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who has handled these cases before. Many times the attorney is able to stop prosecutors from charging it as a misdemeanor before it happens, and many times they are able to reduce it to an infraction after it has already been charged as a misdemeanor. The most important thing is to speak to a professional right away!