The fines for illegally parking in a handicap space will double next month. A bill mandating the change goes into effect July 1.
Valparaiso Republican Senator Ed Charbonneau’s was the bill’s author. Originally, he wanted to raise the minimum fine for parking in a handicap zone without a permit from $50 to $200. But he lowered that amount to $100 after concerns he couldn’t advance his bill out of committee.
Those concerns were due to push back from lawmakers like Wadesville Republican Senator Jim Tomes, who says he still has issues with the severity of the punishment. Tomes says he’s thinking about people like his elderly mother who, while not handicapped, might inadvertently park in one of those spaces.
“A 50 dollar fine would be substantial for them, as it would be, I think, for a lot of people,” said Tomes. “But a hundred dollar fine for somebody who’s struggling just to make it? I just felt that we should just be a little bit more considerate of what we’re doing here.”
Charbonneau says the real problem is not the amount of the fine – it’s enforcement.
“Quite frequently, if a report’s made and a law enforcement official might follow up on that, by the time they get to the location, the person that was committing the offense is gone already.”
He notes only about 200 citations were issued in the entire state last year. He acknowledges he doesn’t have a solution for that. Charbonneau says what he’s working on now is looking at how the state distributes handicap plates and tags in the first place.
“The sticker may be on that car legally because of somebody else,” said Charbonneau, “but here we have someone that just absolutely doesn’t need to be parking in a handicap spot utilizing that placard improperly.”
Tomes says he agrees with Charbonneau and would support efforts to address the problem by reforming the system from that direction.