Are Police Allowed To Park In Handicap Spots?

One complaint that many users of disabled parking permits have is that sometimes people who aren’t entitled to use the spots use them anyway – even the police. Far too often, people assume that using a handicap parking spot because they’re in a hurry is OK, but what they don’t understand is how this impacts people who really need to using those spots.

So who can legally use handicap spots? What are the rules surrounding their use? Are police allowed to park in handicap spots? All of these questions and more are answered below – keep reading to learn all you need to know about handicap parking use and, in some cases, abuse.

Who Are Handicap Parking Spots For?

You see them almost everywhere: blue-and-white signs with the international symbol of access that denotes a parking space for someone with a handicap parking permit. Most people understand that these spaces are only for those people who possess the valid parking permit issued by the state in which they live. Still, it’s not uncommon to see someone taking the space even if they don’t possess the appropriate tag or license plate to do so.

Handicap parking spots are meant for drivers or passengers with conditions and disabilities that make it difficult to get around. These spaces help them to get more easily where they need to go and reduce stress.

If you do not possess a proper handicap license plate or a parking permit, it is illegal to park in a handicap space. Penalties for doing so will vary from place to place, but it almost certainly involves some form of a fine, which can get expensive fast.

police car in parking spot
Image by Kindel Media on Pexels: Can police park in disabled spots? Sometimes. Is it illegal to park in a disabled bay without a permit? Yes!

Are Police Allowed To Park In Handicap Spots?

Police are given a lot of latitudes when it comes to parking and driving in general, but the rules of handicap parking spots still apply to police cars. In an emergency, police are allowed to park in handicap spots and zones. However, police who are not responding to an emergency still must abide by the rules surrounding handicap parking spots, and are not allowed to park there when simply running errands or stopping for something not related to an emergency.

What Can You Do If Someone Is Parked In a Handicap Spot Illegally?

When you are disabled with a handicap parking permit or plate, not being able to find parking can be stressful. While you may not be able to make a space magically appear, you can ensure those who are parking in handicap spaces illegally are reprimanded.

To report a car that is parked illegally in a handicap spot, you should:

  • Gather information. Make sure the car doesn’t have a handicap plate or placard first. Not all disabilities are visible, and this is very important to keep in mind if you see someone exiting a car in a handicap spot who doesn’t look as if they have a disability. If you do determine the car is parked illegally, take down the license plate number and, in the case of someone abusing a parking placard, the number on the placard.
  • Call the non-emergency line. There is a non-emergency line for the police in your area, and that is the number you should use to report this incident.
  • Visit the police department. You can also physically go to a police department to make the report during normal business hours. You will provide a statement of the details and present any other evidence you have.
  • File a report online. In some places, you can file a report online to the local police or sheriff’s department. Check your local authorities’ website to see if that’s an option for you.

Hopefully, police will then take action to punish the person who is abusing the parking situation. In many places, fines of up to $1,000 can be incurred for these violations, and may even include being charged with a misdemeanor that can result in jail time.

Dr. Handicap - handicap parking lot view
Image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash: Parking in a handicap spot without a permit is illegal – no matter who you are!

Etiquette for Handicap Parking

When you do use a handicap parking permit or plate, make sure you’re aware of the standards of etiquette expected when using them, such as:

  • Awareness of different handicap spots. There aren’t laws that specifically outline what type of handicap spot you should use, but be aware of the limitations of the accessibility of others, even if it doesn’t apply to you. For example, you shouldn’t park in a spot designated for a van if you aren’t driving an accessible van or require a ramp to exit your vehicle. Try to use the space that is most appropriate for your individual needs.
  • Display your permit correctly. In most states, you will be required to display a handicap parking permit clearly and visibly when parking. This may mean it is hung from the rearview mirror or placed face-up on the dashboard of the vehicle.
  • Access aisles should be open. Do not park in the cross-hatched access aisles beside disabled parking spots. They are there to give those in wheelchairs easier access to their vehicles.

Featured image by Matt Popovich on Unsplash

Can You Wait In A Handicap Spot?

Handicap parking spaces offer disabled drivers an invaluable lifeline, enabling them to go where they want to go and to live life on their own terms. Every jurisdiction in the United States is obliged by law to have a certain number of disabled parking spaces; in parking lots, on streets, and at all public amenities.

Misuse and abuse of disabled parking facilities is an illegal act that can have a severely negative effect on the quality of life of disabled people and their carers. But often people misuse disabled parking facilities not out of malice, but out of ignorance. Not everyone is up to speed on the rules and regulations surrounding handicap parking infrastructure.

Can You Wait In A Handicap Spot?

Confusion sometimes exists around the right way to use disabled parking spaces. People often have questions such as… Can you ever wait or stop in a handicap spot? How long can you stay parked in a handicap spot? What happens if you park in a disabled spot without a permit? Can you park in a handicap spot if you stay in the car? When is it OK to park or hover your car in a disabled parking spot? Can you wait in a metered space if you have a handicap permit?

The answers to these questions, while not known by everybody, are actually quite clear-cut. Today we will discuss everything you need to know about when, and under what circumstances, you can wait in a handicap spot.

Dr Handicap - handicap parking sign
Image by IanDScofieldWriter on Pixabay: Handicap parking spots must be kept clear for use by handicap parking permit holders.

Can I Stop In A Handicap Spot?

Whether or not you can stop in a handicap stop depends entirely on whether you or a passenger in your vehicle, are the legal holder of a disabled parking permit.

If you, or any of your passengers, hold a disabled parking permit and you have the permit in the vehicle, then you are legally allowed to stop in a handicap spot.

How Long Can You Stay Parked In A Handicap Spot?

If you, or any of your passengers, is the holder of a valid disabled parking permit, you can stay parked in a handicap spot for an unlimited amount of time (or the amount of time specified on the parking sign).

What Happens If You Park In A Disabled Spot Without A Permit?

Parking in a handicap spot without a permit is illegal. Doing so is a misdemeanor offense and can result in various different types of legal punishments.

What Punishments Are Involved In Parking Or Waiting Unlawfully In Handicap Spots?

The punishments for parking illegally in a handicap spot range in severity. The most common punishments can include:

  • A fine of up to $1000 (average fines are in the $200– $500 range)
  • Having your vehicle towed
  • Points on your license
  • Jail time

Can You Park In A Handicap Spot If You Stay In The Car?

If you do not have a valid handicap parking permit in your vehicle that belongs to someone who is currently traveling in the vehicle, then you cannot park in a handicap spot, even if you stay in the car.

When Is It OK To Park Or Hover Your Car In A Disabled Parking Spot?

It is only ever OK to use a handicap spot, either to park in or to hover in, when you or a passenger has their valid handicap parking permit with them in the vehicle.

Dr Handicap - car towed
Image by PIRO4D on Pixabay: A vehicle can be towed for parking illegally in a handicap parking spot.

How Can You Get A Handicap Parking Permit?

The easiest way to get a disabled parking permit is to arrange an online consultation with a licensed medical professional in your state through Dr. Handicap. Dr. Handicap is a fully HIPPA-compliant telemedicine clinic that helps disabled patients get online access to licensed doctors.

Once the examining doctor verifies that your disability qualifies you for a disabled parking permit, they will fill in the relevant paperwork and help you to access your state’s disabled parking program. It is a fast and simple process.

What Are The Qualifying Conditions For A Handicap Parking Permit?

The most common list of qualifying conditions for a handicap parking permit are:

  • Not being able to walk 200 ft without needing to stop to rest.
  • Not being able to walk without the aid of a prosthetic device such as a cane, crutch, wheelchair, or another person.
  • Heath disease.
  • Lung disease.
  • Legal blindness.
  • Oxygen tank usage.
  • A neurological, arthritic, or orthopedic condition that curtails mobility.

Featured image by gregroose on Pixabay

What States Allow Free Handicap Parking?

Disabled parking permit holders tend to have a lot of questions about whether or not disabled parking is always free. We often get asked questions such as… Where do I have to pay for disabled parking? Can I park for free at a meter with a handicap placard? Do all states have the same disabled parking rules?

Let’s dive in to answer all these questions and more.

Is Disabled Parking Free?

The answer to this question is that it depends on which state you’re in and the type of disabled parking you’re talking about.

Certain forms of handicap parking are free for disabled permit holders in all states. However, not all states allow free handicap parking across the board.

Dr Handicap - disabled parking sign
Image by Shutterbug75 on Pixabay: Is disabled parking free in every state?

What Are The Rules Around Paying For Parking As A Disabled Person?

In all states, disabled parking permit holders can park in designated disabled parking spaces for free. However, not all states allow permit holders to park in metered, on-street spaces for free.

Can You Park For Free At A Meter With A Handicap Placard?

Whether or not you can park for free at a meter with a disabled parking permit depends on where you are. Some states allow permit-holders to park for free in metered spaces and others do not. Some states have no blanket rule and instead leave it up to each municipality within the state to set their own rules.

Where Do You Have To Pay For Disabled Parking?

In some states, you need to pay to park in metered, on-street spaces. In certain private parking lots, in most states, you will also need to pay to park as a disabled driver.

Disabled Parking Permits And Time-Restricted Parking

Many states allow disabled permit holders to park in time-restricted parking spaces for either unlimited time, or for an extended period of time. However, these states do not necessarily allow permit holders to park in these spaces for free.

What States Allow Free Handicap Parking?

The states that allow all disabled permit holders to park for free in metered, on-street spaces are:

  • California – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time.
  • Florida – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for up to four hours.
  • Hawaii – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for two and a half hours or for the maximum time the meter allows.
  • Idaho – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time.
  • Illinois – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time, except at meters with a maximum time of 30 minutes or less.
  • Kansas – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces free for up to 24 hours.
  • Maine – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for up to twice the maximum time allowed.
  • Minnesota – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time.
  • New Hampshire – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for free for varying periods of time decided by local municipal authorities.
  • Oregon – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time, except at meters with a maximum time of 30 minutes or less.
  • South Carolina – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time.
  • Tennessee – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time.
  • Texas – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for an unlimited time.
  • Utah – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for reasonable periods of time.
  • Virginia – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for up to four hours.
  • Washington DC – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for double the maximum time allowed.
  • Washington State – Disabled parking permit holders may park for free in metered, on-street spaces for the maximum time shown on the parking signs.
Dr Handicap - parking sign
Image by AbsolutVision on Pixabay: Several states allow disabled drivers to park for free in metered spaces.

Do States Recognize Disabled Parking Permits From Other States?

All American states recognize disabled parking permits issued by all other states. American disabled parking permits are also recognized in several foreign countries, including:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • All European Union countries

What Are The Qualifying Conditions For A Disabled Parking Permit?

The most common qualifying conditions for a disabled parking permit are:

  • An inability to walk 200 feet without needing to stop to rest
  • Any condition that necessitates the use of a walking aid such as a wheelchair, crutch, cane, prosthetic device, or another person.
  • A heart condition (classified Class III or IV by the American Heart Association)
  • Lung disease
  • Any condition that necessitates the use of a portable oxygen tank
  • Being an amputee
  • A neurological, arthritic, or orthopedic condition
  • Legal blindness

How Do You Get A Disabled Parking Permit?

The best way to get a disabled parking permit is to arrange an online consultation with a licensed medical professional through Dr. Handicap. Once the medical professional has verified your disability, they will provide support to help you to access your state’s disabled parking program and submit your disabled parking permit application.

Featured image by Jonathan J. Castellon on Unsplash

What Is Handicap Accessible Parking Abuse And How Can We Stop It?

While most people use handicap parking spaces legally with a valid disabled parking permit, there are still folks out there who perform handicap parking violations. This can be done in a range of ways, but mainly consists of people abusing the privilege of handicap accessible parking spaces. As frustrating as this can be, there are some actions you can take to report and end these types of violations. Here’s some helpful information on what defines a handicapped parking space and what you can do to stop permit abuse.

What is a handicap parking place?

Designated disabled parking places are set aside for individuals who have a specific medical condition that makes mobility difficult for them, as well as a special parking permit. These spots are positioned in key places in public parking lots at businesses, retailers, office buildings, etc., at the most convenient and accessible locations to make it easy for disabled individuals to access. The parking places are generally marked with blue paint and have a symbol of a wheelchair either printed directly on the ground or on posted signs.

Anyone who has a legitimate parking permit (obtained by going through the full application process with their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles) is allowed to park in these spaces. Parking in a handicap spot without a permit could lead to a ticket and/or a fine.

Dr. Handicap - handicap parking lot view
Image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash: Handicap parking places are typically marked with blue paint and a wheelchair symbol.

What is handicap accessible parking abuse?

Disabled parking abuse occurs whenever anyone is misusing a handicap placard or parking without a placard at all. Anytime someone breaks the rules of the road or doesn’t abide by parking regulations, they’re abusing handicap parking privileges.

An individual is breaking the law if they:

Park in a handicap spot without a permit

Handicap spots are designated for disabled individuals and should only be used when a disabled person is a driver or a passenger of that specific vehicle. Parking in a handicap parking place without a permit clearly displayed is expressly prohibited.

Borrow someone else’s parking permit

Each permit is officially issued to a specific individual and cannot be lent out to anyone else (including friends or family). A handicap parking space can only be occupied if the disabled person is a driver or passenger of that particular car.

Use an expired or invalid handicap permit

Disabled parking permits have strict expiration dates on them. Individuals can be ticketed or fined if they try to use an expired or invalid permit.

Use a fraudulent permit

Any type of counterfeit or fake parking permit is against the law and should never be used to park in a handicap accessible parking space.

What can you do to stop parking abuse?

There are several ways to stop parking abuse from taking place. Here’s a list of how to report handicapped parking abuse:

Check your assumptions before reporting anyone

Before you report a possible handicap parking violation, keep in mind that you might not be able to tell if a person is disabled just by looking at them. Some individuals have what are called “hidden disabilities”, meaning their medical condition doesn’t have outward symptoms that are obviously noticeable, and they don’t require assistance in walking (such as with a wheelchair or cane).

Try to remember that you won’t always know if someone is using a handicap parking place illegally because you won’t be able to tell if they have a legitimate need for a parking permit.

Call law or parking enforcement

If you’re sure that someone is using a disabled parking space without a valid permit, contact your local law enforcement. Avoid using 911, as this isn’t an emergency situation.

By contacting local officials or a parking enforcement agency, you can offer the location of the parking place, along with information about the vehicle in question (like the make and model of the car and the license plate number). It’s typically not necessary for you to stay until law enforcement arrives – unfortunately, sometimes these types of calls cannot be prioritized.

Call city hotlines

Some cities have specific hotlines you can call to report parking issues, including handicap parking abuses. Make sure to have relevant information about the vehicle in order to help report possible illegal parking violators.

Dr Handicap - using phone in car
Image by Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash: You have the option of calling law enforcement or parking hotlines to report handicap parking abuses.

Check with the DMV

Many DMV offices have designated departments that focus on handicap parking abuse. If you’d like to report a person who is parked illegally (especially if they do this often) or a person who is using a fraudulent or expired placard, you can reach out to your local DMV branch to make a formal complaint.

Report illegal parkers online

Because government agencies like local police and the DMV can be notoriously slow to act, you might want to take another avenue of reporting. HandicappedFraud.org allows you to submit a complaint directly on the website, and then the relevant information is handed over to state agencies like the DMV. All you need is the address of where the complaint occurred, the date, the car’s license plate, and the placard number (if they have a placard at all). This can be a great option if you want to submit a complaint quickly and easily.

Remember that it’s best to never get into any type of confrontation with a person you suspect is parking illegally. In the past, these kinds of altercations have even led to violence. If you feel reporting the individual is necessary, try one of the above steps instead of approaching the person directly. It’s a much safer option to just let law enforcement handle the situation.

Although handicap parking abuses occur all the time, there are some steps you can take to combat them. Just remember to always use your own handicap parking permit appropriately, and you’ll be able to protect the privilege of handicap parking.

Featured image by Leonardo Lameu on Unsplash

When Did Handicap Parking Become A Legal Requirement?

Once you’ve received your handicap parking permit, you have immediate access to the most convenient parking spaces when you travel around the US. This accessibility is extremely helpful for people with disabilities who find it difficult to get around. Today, your rights as a disabled person are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but this wasn’t always the case. Keep reading for some history of disabled parking regulations.

Who invented handicap parking?

While the exact person who came up with the idea for handicap parking isn’t known, the first time there were any legal guidelines for parking advantages for individuals with disabilities was in 1955 in Delaware. This law designated specific parking spaces for those with disabilities. A few other areas in the US also implemented this idea, but it wasn’t widely successful at the time because it was hard to enforce without a federal system in place.

When did handicap parking become law?

So when did handicap parking become a legal requirement? The answer comes out of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, a time when lawmakers became more focused on people’s rights (based on gender, race, ethnicity, etc.).

The first law benefiting disabled individuals came in 1968 with the Architectural Barriers Act; it established federal guidelines for the design of buildings so that they would be more accessible to people with disabilities. This included implementing special parking places, signage, and lowered curbs for wheelchair users. The International Symbol of Access (the wheelchair symbol you see today on handicap parking places) was instituted through this act. Although this was a helpful step for many people, there wasn’t any kind of enforcement or direction on placement or size of handicap parking at that time.

In 1988, the Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act was amended to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against. But is handicap parking a federal law? It is now because of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This act, still in place today, outlines specific guidelines to help support people with disabilities, including regulation of handicap parking.

Dr Handicap - parking lot
Image by Brydon McCluskey on Unsplash: The ADA ensures that every parking lot has available handicap parking.

What does the ADA cover?

Section 4.6 of the ADA legislation mandates that parking lots and passenger loading zones must have at least one close handicap parking spot near a building’s entrance. Accessible parking spaces should be at least 96 inches wide to allow disabled drivers and/or passengers to enter and exit the vehicle easily (especially if they require the use of a wheelchair or other assistive device).

The ADA also laid out the regulations that businesses need to follow – for example, for every 25 regular parking spaces, there needs to be a minimum of one handicap parking space and one handicap van parking space. The number of designated spaces increases with the amount of regular available parking spaces (e.g. a place with 400 parking spaces must have a minimum of eight handicap-accessible spaces). There is also specific legislation regarding medical buildings and hospitals; these facilities must ensure at least 10% of their parking is handicap spaces.

The ADA also requires that all accessible spaces be designed the exact same way: eight feet wide (and 11 feet wide for van-accessible parking). Access aisles in between the spaces should be marked with a crosshatch pattern so that other vehicles cannot park there and must be at least five feet wide. The surfaces of these spaces must be smooth and level so that wheeled mobility devices can be used easily. All spots should be painted (usually in blue) and marked with appropriate signage designating the spaces as handicap accessible ones. These spaces should also be well-maintained and kept clear of snow, ice, leaves, etc.

Can you report someone not adhering to the ADA?

There are some avenues you can go down if you think a business or public area isn’t abiding by the ADA laws. If you believe someone is breaking the federal law, you can make a direct complaint on the ADA.gov website. The government agency will then investigate your claim and take action if necessary. This can be helpful if you’re trying to make sure the parking lots in your area have the required number of handicap-accessible parking places. You can also contact your local law or parking enforcement to lodge a complaint, or you can call the city manager to voice your concerns.

Dr Handicap - laptop
Image by Content Pixie on Unsplash: You can file a formal complaint online if you think someone is not following the laws of the ADA.

Although handicap places are regulated under federal law, some states (and even some cities) may have additional restrictions to help with discrimination against disabled individuals. This can include allowing them to park for an extended amount of time (even if there’s a posted time limit) or parking for free at on-street metered parking. These types of benefits are extended in an effort to make getting around easier for those with disabilities.

It’s important to check the laws and regulations for your specific city and state so that you’re informed of your rights. But chances are, if you’re disabled, your rights are covered by federal law.

Featured image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash