California Vehicle Code §4461(b) makes it unlawful for someone to use a handicap placard for something other than it’s purpose. Many people mistakenly believe that it is not that serious of an offense, when in fact, that is not the case. Misuse of a handicap placard is a serious offense, and one that can either be charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction. It is generally up to law enforcement, or prosecutors to determine which it will eventually be charged as.
The statute itself includes specific language regarding what is unlawful, and the statute is extensive. It reads as follows:
A person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued shall not lend the placard to another person, and a disabled person shall not knowingly permit the use for parking purposes of the placard or identification license plate issued pursuant to Section 5007 by one not entitled to it. 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.
The provision actually contains several different acts that are considered unlawful by the legislature. Each one warrants careful consideration.
First and foremost, it is unlawful for a person to whom a disabled placard has been issued to lend it to another person. Let’s consider an example:
Hannah and Doris are having lunch and Doris explains to Hannah that she needs to get her Christmas shopping done but has a hard time getting parking. Hannah, has been issued a handicap placard because she has currently undergone leg surgery and needs the assistance of a wheelchair. Hannah tells Doris to borrow her placard so that she has an easier time finding parking. Doris agrees. Officers spot Doris walking to her vehicle and ask her for identification in regards to the handicap placard.
It is likely that not only will Hannah be charged under California Vehicle Code §4461 (b), but Doris will also be charged under another criminal charge depending on what the officers write her up with.
Hannah knowingly allowed Doris to use the permit for parking purposes. As stated in the statute, a person who has been issued a handicap placard shall not “ knowingly permit the use for parking purposes by one not entitled to it”.
Lets consider for a minute that the above mentioned scenario played out differently. Lets assume that Hannah, hearing about Doris’s complaint with parking, made Doris an offer. Hannah said that she needed to get her Christmas shopping done as well, and since she cannot drive a vehicle, she would ask Doris for a ride, and as a benefit, Doris would get closer parking because of Hannah. This is not a violation of the statute as specified in the latter half of the subsection:
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.
If this were the scenario, neither Doris nor Hannah would have been charged. This is a subjective area of law, and one that includes many defenses. If you have been charged under this code section, it is important to consult with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer.