New Bill Targets Handicapped Parking Fraud

Bill Would Increase Fees, Allow Police To Tow

New legislation would crack down on people who fraudulently use handicapped parking placards.

According to a Cornell University study, there are approximately 186,000 people in Colorado with physical disabilities. But an estimated 1.2 million blue handicapped parking placards have been issued in the state. Disability rights advocates said the numbers are proof that handicapped parking placard abuse is pervasive.

Dale Coski, who heads Denver’s Office of Disability Rights, said oftentimes, family members wind up using the placards of dead relatives, sometimes renewing the placards for years after the disabled relative has died. “I think that the dead person should be rolling over in their grave,” said Coski.

Coski said that is only the beginning of the fraud. Placard holders frequently alter the expiration dates on the tags, which are written in magic marker and can be easily rubbed off.

Pam Maxwell, a volunteer with the Disability Parking Enforcement Program has a keen eye for the altered placards. Maxwell spends hours scouting Denver parking lots, issuing $150 tickets.

“If [disabled people] can't find a spot, they go back home without groceries,” said Maxwell. She believes House Bill 1019 will cut down on handicapped parking fraud. The bill would increase the fee for parking illegally in a handicapped space from $150 in some areas to $300 for a first-time violation, $600 the second time and $900 the third. The bill would also give police officers the authority to tow a car illegally parked in a handicapped space. The bill also makes it a criminal offense to alter the expiration dates of placards, punishable by up to $1,000.

Coski said some Web sites have attempted to shame handicapped parking violators by posting their license plate numbers online, but she believes the real solution is tough legislation.

“I think it's a lot better to give them a ticket,” she said.