parking for pleasure and profit

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so...thursday afternoon i went down to the houston municipal court building to try and take care of my two parking tickets. i had poked around online for awhile earlier and managed to find a page on the houston parking website that listed all of the permit parking streets by zip code, when the permit rule went into effect, and what the restrictions are. for the area code where i park, lockett is the only street listed. (which makes sense since it is the only permit parking street.) i had printed this out to take with me. i thought about going by and taking pictures of the streets and the signs, but i figured i shouldn't need to since the city of houston website specifically says which streets have permit parking and the one i was on -- the one on my ticket -- isn't listed.

i got to the building and pulled a ticket to park. i removed all of my many various metal objects so i wouldn't have to deal with the metal detector much, and after getting in the building i proceeded down to the basement where the parking offices are. i signed my name on a sheet of paper, they took my tickets and my driver's license, then -- like at any good government institution -- i sat down and waited.

this process is known as having an instant trial. basically, you go into an office with one person, you plead your case to them, and they dismiss the ticket, reduce the fine, or tell you to get bent and pay the whole thing.

he asked about my earlier ticket first. i explained how events had unfolded, then said i understood i had parked somewhere that was contrary to the signs, but even though i hadn't paid attention to the signs and it was my fault, i didn't understand why parking meters which are aware of the time would let me put money in and show me i had x minutes of valid time when it wasn't true. he laughed and said they are sometimes hard to program, sometimes the signs have just been changed, or whatever else...but he understood, so he would drop the fine to $15. in the future, he added, i should look at the signs though.

we then proceeded to the second ticket. i explained the cop had made a mistake because the sign is angled poorly, but lockett is the only permit street there. i then showed him the print out from their site. he looked at it for about a second, then said "where are your pictures?" i told him i didn't take any, but the site shows it isn't a permit street, plus i have been parking in that area for a couple of years and i know when they changed lockett, but it was only lockett. plus i talk to the residents on that street and if it was changing they would have told me. he was still adamant about having pictures. i explained the sign is angled though, which is why the cop mistakenly gave me and someone else tickets. i also said lockett has a number of no parking signs along it, but this street has no other sign along it around there. he countered by saying the street only has to have one at each end, so it might be around the corner. he said he was going to dismiss the ticket, but the next time i should bring pictures. i restated that the sign was angled a lot, but he said if he saw it he could read the sign. i stopped disagreeing at this point since it wasn't worth it, but i figure if a cop can see the sign and mistakenly write me a ticket, there is no reason to think he would read it differently. plus, how is it a picture matters if their very own website doesn't list the street as being a permit parking street? and how many pictures would i have to take to prove the street doesn't have a sign at the other end or anywhere else along it? should i take a video? and, again, how does this matter if the city of houston website doesn't list it as being a permit parking street?

i thanked him and left, went to the payment line and waited for an open window, then paid my $15. i took my parking ticket and paid $3 for the time i was there. all told i paid $18 for what was originally one justifiable $65 fine (because even though the meter let me pay and told me i had time, the signs were there and i didn't notice them) and one completely bogus $65 fine. i figure i came out alright.

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Well done. I've never had a male parking judge, and I've had a few. I've parked my motorcycle in the place I got tickets 3 weeks later just so I could go in armed w/pictures. It seems to make them happy even though they barely look at them.

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