Ever wondered why the fines posted in parking lots for illegally parking in spaces designated for people with disabilities vary so greatly?
Throughout Naperville, we found signs indicating $100, $250 and $500 penalties. Some posted signs indicated a “minimum $250 fine.” Patch recently asked the and the secretary of state’s office to explain the reason behind the different fines.
The reason, it turns out, is quite simple: outdated signs.
According to Sgt. John Westlove with the Naperville Police Department’s traffic section/special events unit, the actual fine for illegally parking in a designated accessibly spot is $250.
“All fines in the city are a minimum of $250, as set by city ordinance,” Westlove said via email. “The Naperville Police Department encourages property owners/businesses to update the Persons with Disabilities sign to reflect the $250 fine in Naperville and has provided the new fine stickers to the property owners/businesses in the past to update these signs.
''Naperville Police Department personnel, especially the community service officers, have done their best to visit property owners/businesses and supply them with the new fine stickers. Some of the discrepancies could be a result of private property owners not updating their signage.”
The fine for illegally parking in a spot reserved for those with disabilities is set by city ordinance, Westlove said. The city adopted the Illinois Vehicle Code, which includes regulation of these spaces, in April 1992.
“Prior to that year, the city wrote most of its tickets under the city ordinance, which was not all-encompassing as the state laws the city subsequently adopted,” Westlove said.
In January 2006, the state increased the minimum fine for accessible parking violations from $100 to $250, said Bill Bogdan, disabilities liaison to Secretary of State Jesse White. “And it gave municipalities the ability to increase the fine up to $350 through the adoption of a local ordinance.”
Although municipalities can increase the fine up to $350, Naperville has chosen not to do so, Westlove said.
When the law changed five years ago, it had been more than a decade since the state last increased the fine — from $50 to $100 in 1992 — and the idea was to increase it so it acts a deterrent, Bogdan said.
The 2006 changes to the state vehicle code also increased the fine for unlawful use of disability license plates or placards from $100 to $500, he said.
“That’s where you see more abuse today,” Bogdan said. “People who use placards and plates illegally.”
The person to whom the plates or placard is issued to must be present when parking in a designated spot, and must enter and exit the vehicle, he said.
The secretary of state’s office issues disability plates and placards, and complaints against individuals who abuse their use can be filed online.
The Illinois attorney general’s office works to ensure businesses and property owners provide adequate accessible parking spots, and that they are appropriately designated and marked. According to its Web site, the office frequently fields questions and complaints about accessible parking.
It is the responsibility of property owners/businesses located on private property to place the correct signs in the parking lots, Westlove said. Police can enforce in these locations just as it does in municipal-owned lots, he added.
“Regarding the $500 fine, that one is unenforceable for the Naperville Police Department based on the state law, which again the city mirrors. If officers issued parking citations at that location, the fine would only be $250,” Westlove said. “...The City of Naperville has never had a $500 fine for this violation.”
Bogdan said it’s not uncommon for a paving company to install an incorrect fine sign when paving or resurfacing a lot.
“If your paving company installed the wrong sign, you can contact the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois,” he said.
The CCDI provides “$250 FINE” stickers for $6 that can be used to update signs to reflect Illinois law. An order form is available online.
With all that being said, how often do motorists get ticketed for illegally parking in an accessible spot?
Naperville Police issue approximately 200 citations a year to those parking in a spot without the appropriate placard or plates. Those tickets are the result of officers seeing someone in the spot while on patrol, as well as citizens calling the police to report a violation, said Naperville Police Sgt. Gregg Bell.
“Sometimes by the time the officer gets there, they are gone,” Bell said.