The use of disability placards to access parking space illegally is considered as a fraud in California. Anyone apprehended for this offense can attract severe penalties. If you are facing unlawful use of disability placards allegations, you should seek the experienced San Diego Criminal Attorney. Hiring an experienced attorney allows you to navigate the complex laws that restrict unlawful use of disability placards in San Diego, CA.

About Disability Person Placards and Plates in California

A disability placard or disabled person placard (DP placard) is a large blue tag that a disabled person should hang on the rear-view mirror of his or her vehicle. It is also referred to as a handicapped parking placard and contains a wheelchair symbol, known as the International Symbol of Access.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for issuing DP placards, which comes in different varieties. Here is a closer look at the different types of placards that are available in California.

Permanent Parking Placard

Permanent parking placards are available to permanently disabled people. The placard is valid for two years and expires on 30th June in every oddly-numbered year. There are no fees that apply when applying for a permanent DP placard. Once a person gets it, there is no need for medical re-certification to have the placard renewed. The DMV will automatically mail the user a new one to his or her address.

Temporary Parking Placards

People with temporary disabilities are issued with temporary placards. The temporary placards are valid for six months. There is a nominal fee currently at $6 that applies during the application. The card is also renewable for six consecutive times.

Travel Parking Placards for California Residents

Californians with permanent disability placards or plates can obtain a no-cost travel parking placard, which lasts for thirty days after its issuance. This kind of placard is suitable for someone traveling within California with someone else’s vehicle or when renting a car.

Travel Parking Placards for Non-residents

People who do not reside in California can get a permanent disability placard to use within California without any charges. The placards are suitable until ninety days after the issuance and the date that the certifying medical professional has noted during the application.

California Handicap Placard Rules

Some specific rules and regulations apply while using California handicapped placards. These rules are considered in the application and their use. Let’s have a closer look at these requirements.

Application and Requirements

You can apply for the placards in person or by mail. Despite the process that you choose, you have to bring your proof of disability to be eligible for the issuance. The application must be filled out with notoriety from a physician, practitioner, chiropractor, or a surgeon if you have lower extremities. For visual impairment, you should seek notoriety from an optometrist. You might need to change your driver’s license based on the nature of your disability and how it affects your driving skills.

According to the California DMV, people with lung diseases, heart diseases, visual impairment, or any form of physical impairment.

Disability Placard Use in California

After you have received the DMV-issued handicapped placard, you are entitled to the following parking spaces:

  • A parking space with the International Symbol of Access or the wheelchair symbol
  • Next to a blue curb, which is designated for people with disabilities
  • Next to a green curb, which indicates a limited time parking. (There is no time limitation for people with disabilities)
  • In an on-street metered parking space (No charges for people with disabilities)
  • Areas where merchant or resident permits are required

Despite the privileges that people with disabilities have to enjoy, there are some places that they cannot park. These places include:

  • Crosshatched marked spaces next to wheelchair-accessible parks. These spaces are for wheelchair and lift access only
  • Next to a red curb, which is off-limit for stopping and parking
  • Next to a yellow curb, which are for commercial vehicles to load or unload people or freight
  • Next to a white curb, which is used for loading or unloading depositing mail and passengers

People with disability placards can access service refuels at self-service-rates unless the facility has one employee on duty.

How Handicapped Persons Placards are Misused

The disabled person Placards are only supposed to be used by the people assigned to them. However, some restricted actions might attract fines if you violate them. These violations are as follows:

  • Letting a family or friend borrow and sue the placard
  • Forging medical professional signature to acquire the placards
  • Using someone else’s placard
  • Using or displaying counterfeit placards
  • Providing false information to obtain the placard
  • Altering your placard in any way

If you violate the above-stated restrictions, you can have your placard canceled and revoked by the California DMV. This will prompt punishment.

Misuse of Disabled Person Placards in California

California Vehicle Code 4461 prohibits the misuse of disabled person placards in California. Under Vehicle Code 4461, there are three distinct types of fraud that makes one eligible for punishment under the statute. These frauds include:

  • Allowing someone else to use your disabled placard
  • Using someone else’s placard
  • Wrongfully parking in an accessible parking space

Here is a closer look at the above-stated frauds.

Allowing Someone Else Use Your Disability Placard

Under California Vehicle Code 4461(b), it is a crime to lend another person your disabled parking placard or knowingly allow another person to use it. This applies even when someone else is running your errands, and you expect him or her to rely on your disability placard to access a parking spot.

Displaying an Invalid Placard

Under Vehicle Code 4461(c), it is unlawful to display a handicapped placard if it was issued to another person unless you are transporting that person. It is also illegal to use a canceled or revoked placard.

Please note, to be guilty under this statute, you do not have to be in an accessible parking spot. Displaying the placard on your car is enough to convict you under the law.

Wrongful Parking in a Handicapped Spot

Under Vehicle Code 4461(d), it is illegal to park in an accessible parking spot if the vehicle with the DP plates is issued to another person or the driver is not transporting the disabled registrant.

Penalties for Misusing Disability Placards in California

Violating California Vehicle Code 4461 is a wobbler. This implies that it is punishable as a civil infraction (similar to a parking ticket) and a criminal misdemeanor.

The decision to punish the offender with either of the options is entirely under the discretion of the prosecutor. The severity of the violation influences the choice and whether or not the offender has a history of similar or other offenses.

Punishment as a Civil Infraction

In most cases, Vehicle Code 4461 is punished as a civil infraction. Infractions are punishable by fines, and the minimum fine that applies for violating this statute is $250, while the maximum is $1,000.

Failing to pay the fine can have you charged with failure to appear or pay for a traffic citation. Failure to appear in court for a traffic citation is considered a misdemeanor in California. The offense is punishable by:

  • Custody in a county jail for a maximum of six months
  • A fine of up to $1,000

A judge or jury can decide to award you with a misdemeanor or summary probation in place of your jail sentence.

Criminal Penalties

You can be charged with a misdemeanor for misusing a disability placard in California. This is punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail and a fine of between $250 and $1,000.

You might also get a misdemeanor or summary probation, which requires you to pay the fine, perform community service, or attend counseling.

Additional Fines

Despite being charged for a misdemeanor or infraction, you might be ordered to pay an extra maximum fine of $1,500. This fine usually applies to someone who misuses the placard to park in a handicapped zone. There are fewer chances of having the fines imposed on someone who wrongfully allows another person to use his or her DP tags.

Legal Defenses for Misusing Disability Placards

Once you hire an attorney, you will expect him or her to help you win your case. This is achieved through the use of legal defenses. Not all legal arguments are relevant to the allegations. Your attorney should carefully select appropriate legal defenses, which are as follows.

Lack of Knowledge

You are not guilty of misusing your disability placard if you did not knowingly provide it to another person. If the placard was taken without your permission, you would not be guilty under this statute. For instance, if a family or friend took the card without your knowledge, the DMV investigator should not charge you. This is also common when your driver tries to use the card for your errands without your knowledge.

No Actual Misuse

Parking in a handicapped zone does not violate California Vehicle Code 4461 if the legal owner is close to the parking lot or transporting the owner. For instance, if you dropped a registered placard carrier and was apprehended while parking the vehicle, this does not make you guilty since the owner is within your reach.

Police Misconduct

A traffic officer might violate your rights in several ways. For instance, if the officer searches your vehicle unlawfully, this might violate your rights. Also, if he or she does not read out your Miranda rights during the arrest, this will be regarded as a violation of your constitutional rights, as well.

Violation of your constitutional rights does not necessarily make the court to dismiss your case but makes the evidence collected against you invalid. In this case, the prosecutor might decide to deal with the case as an infraction rather than a misdemeanor. The prosecutor can also fail to voucher for the additional fine.

False Allegations

Not all allegations presented against you are true. Sometimes a traffic officer might falsely accuse you of showing an invalid disability placard or parking in a handicapped parking zone just to get back to you. In such a case, you will have to establish proof of the false allegations and present them to the court.

Related Offenses to Vehicle Code 4461

Misuse of disability placards is charged along, or instead of other California offenses. This means that these offenses are closely associated with the Vehicle Code 4461. These related crimes are as follows:

Falsifying or Forging a Disability Placard: Vehicle Code 4463(b)

Under Vehicle Code 4463(b), it is considered a misdemeanor to do the following:

  • Forging, counterfeiting, or falsifying a disability placard
  • Knowingly attempting or passing off a forged, counterfeited, or false disability placard as a genuine one
  • Acquiring, possessing, or selling, or offering to sell a counterfeit disability placard

Violation of this statute attracts a possible punishment of a maximum of six months in county jail and a fine ranging between $500 and $1,000.

Unlike some of the penalties for some misdemeanor, penalties under this statute are not eligible for suspension.

Display of a Counterfeit Disability Placard: Vehicle Code 4463(c)

Under California Vehicle Code 4463(c), it is illegal to display or permit a counterfeit disability placard, intending to commit fraud.

Violating Vehicle Code 4463(c) is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as a

misdemeanor or a non-criminal infraction. If charged as a misdemeanor, the possible consequences include a maximum of six months in county jail and a fine ranging between $250 and $1,000.

If charged as an infraction, the possible punishment that applies include a civil fine ranging between $250 to $1,000.

Forging a Public Seal: Penal Code 472

It is possible for someone convicted with handicapped parking fraud to be charged with forgery of a public seal. Under this statute, it is a crime to willfully possess and conceal a counterfeit government seal to commit fraud.

You might be charged under this statute if you have forged DMV documents and have made a placard that seems like an authorized placard.

Forging a public seal is a wobbler offense meaning that one can be sentenced with a felony or misdemeanor. For a misdemeanor, the possible punishment that applies includes a maximum of one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

For a felony charge, the possible penalties that apply include 16 months, two or three years in the State prison. It also attracts a maximum fine of $10,000.

Providing False Information to a Peace Officer: Vehicle Code 31

Vehicle Code 31 defines everything to do with giving false information to a California peace officer. You might be convicted under this statute if you lie about who owns a disability placard or license plate.

Giving false information to a police or peace officer is a misdemeanor in California. It is punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

False Statement to the DMV or CHP: Vehicle Code 20

Under Vehicle Code 20, it is unlawful to use a false statement to the California DMV or California Highway Patrol. Violating this statute is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum of six months in county jail with a maximum fine of $1,000.

Service Dog Fraud: Penal Code 365.7

Under Penal Code 365.7, it is unlawful to knowingly and falsely represent yourself as an owner, trainer, or guide of a service or signal dog. Violating this statute is a misdemeanor, and the potential penalties include a maximum of six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

What You Expect From Your Criminal Attorney

It is essential to hire a professional criminal attorney once you are arrested for unlawful using a disability placard. The possibility of achieving the best result in your case depends on how the attorney carries him or herself. It is common to have questions and concerns about the legal process that you are about to undergo and what to expect from your lawyer. Here is a detailed description of what you should expect from a competent criminal attorney.

Clear Communication

Communication is the core of a remarkable client-attorney relationship. Your attorney should explain legal issues related to your case to help you understand what you are dealing with. If you have any questions related to the matter at hand, your attorney should be in a position to answer them.

You should also have the capacity to raise any questions if you have any to make an important decision related to your case. If you do not understand anything, your lawyer should be available for clarification. Your attorney should be able to communicate promptly. This means that your attorney should acknowledge that your communication is well received even when he or she is busy with other issues.

Attorney Ethics

Lawyers are expected to follow specific ethical considerations. In most cases, lawyers are expected to:

  • Represent their clients with exclusive loyalty
  • Keep their clients’ confidences
  • Put the interest of their clients ahead of theirs
  • Represent the clients within the bounds of the law.

If your attorney can manage to comply with the ethical consideration required in their practice, then you can safely expect to achieve the best possible result in your case. Also, you will not be worried about any malpractice that might affect your results.


Everybody makes mistakes, even in a profession such as law. However, this does not mean that your lawyer should work unreasonably. Your attorney should take time to familiarize him or herself with the legal complexities that come with your case and involve the right consultation as well. Since you will be choosing your attorney from several options, a competent attorney should clearly explain his or her level of competence in the specific area related to your case to avoid making a bad choice.

Clear Decision Making

Decision making goes hand in hand with excellent communication. It is recommendable to establish how you will be making decisions about your case to avoid any confusion. Your attorney should solely and exclusively handle your case and avoid delegating crucial aspects to minors. The attorney should also help you make decisions about your case by explaining various elements that you have to decide on.

Ample Preparation

The success of your case depends on how well-prepared both of you are. A reliable attorney should put his or her best foot forward to ensure that everything goes as expected. The preparation process involves finding relevant legal defenses that would help in disapproving the argument presented by the prosecutor. It also involves finding the best legal procedure to pursue based on the severity of your convictions.

Clear Fees and Costs

Once you hire an attorney, you should have your fee agreement in writing, and everything should be easy to understand. A reasonable attorney should itemize every bill to ensure that the fees are easy to understand. The best way to start in considering your costs is by agreeing to pay exclusively or hourly. Regardless of the payment process that you choose, make sure that there are no overcharges.

Sometimes your attorney might decide to pay on a contingency basis. This means that the lawyer will collect the payment after you have won the case. In such a case, you should acknowledge how the fee is calculated. You should also determine how your expenses are paid as the lawsuit is in progress.

Find a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Hiring the professional San Diego Criminal Attorney after being accused of unlawful use of a disability placard is the best decision you can make. A professional attorney should prepare and employ the best legal arguments to increase the possibility of winning your case. Based on our experience in the jurisdiction of San Diego County, we are confident in offering the best legal services. For more information about our services, feel free to reach out to us at 619-880-5474, and schedule a consultation with us.

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