Illegal Use or Misuse of Disability Placards
California Vehicle Code 4461 VC

Were you cited for illegally using someone else's disability placard?  Or perhaps for lending your handicapped parking permit to another person?

California Vehicle Code section 4461 makes this a crime. It's sometimes called "handicapped parking fraud." A conviction could land you in jail for up to 6 months...and scar you with a permanent criminal record.

But don't despair. With a good legal defense, you may be able to get this charge reduced or even dismissed.

In the article below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 will explain why.

1. California "Handicapped Parking Fraud" Law

California Vehicle Code 4461 VC prohibits the following types of misuse of handicap parking placards:

  1. lending another person your validly issued handicap placard to someone who is not entitled to use it (we refer here to placards issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that bear the universal "wheelchair symbol" that entitling the holder to special parking privileges)
  2. knowingly permitting another person (who is not otherwise entitled to use such a placard) to use it,
  3. displaying a disability parking placard that was not issued to you by the DMV (or that has been cancelled or revoked), and
  4. driving someone else's car that displays a valid disability placard and parking in a parking spot reserved for disabled persons.2

That said, these provisions do not apply if you are actively transporting a disabled person.

2. Legal Defenses

The primary legal defense to this crime is the caveat just stated above.  As San Bernardino County criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi3 explains, "If...at the time of your arrest...you were transporting a disabled person, you are not guilty of violating Vehicle Code 4461 California's law against illegally using a disability placard."

Example:  You are driving your elderly mother...who has been issued a disability placard...to the store.  You drop her off in front of the shop and then go park in a nearby parking spot designated for disabled persons.  Even though you are alone when you park, you are in the process of actively transporting your mother and are therefore exempt from prosecution under this law.

Another defense to this crime is that you did not knowingly allow another person to use your placard or give permission to another person to use your card.  If someone else uses your placard without your knowledge or consent, YOU are not guilty of violating this law.

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

If convicted of illegally lending or using a disability parking placard, you face either

  • a civil penalty of between $250 and $1,000, or
  • a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in a county jail and the same fine.4

And in addition to (or in lieu of) the fines listed above for violating Vehicle Code 4461, the court may impose a $1,500 civil penalty.5

4. Related Offenses

Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, a violation of Vehicle Code 4461 VC California's law against illegal use of a disability parking permits could also trigger additional related charges.

Some of these include (but are not limited to):

California Vehicle Code 4463(b) and (c) -- Counterfeit disability placards

If you are involved in any activity that deals with forged or counterfeit disability placards, you face prosecution under Vehicle Code 4463(b) or (c) California's law prohibiting counterfeit disability placards.

If convicted, you face between $250 and $1,000 in fines and up to six-months in a county jail.6 And again, in addition to or in lieu of these fines, the court may impose a $2,500 civil penalty.7

California Vehicle Code 472 VC - Forgery or counterfeiting of seals; possession and concealment of same

If you forge or possess a forged "seal"...such as the seal that appears on a validly issued California DMV disability placard...you subject yourself to punishment under California's forgery laws for violating Vehicle Code 472 VC California's law against forging, counterfeiting, or possessing seals.8

This offense is what's known as a "wobbler" which means that prosecutors can charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on

  1. the facts of your case, and
  2. your criminal history.

If convicted of this offense as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.  If convicted of this offense as a felony, you face 16 months or two or three years in the California state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.9

California Vehicle Code 20 VC -- False statements

  1. If you knowingly make a false statement or knowingly conceal any material fact in a registration document that you file with the California DMV...such as in your application for a disability placard...you violate Vehicle Code 20 VC California's law against making false statements to the CHP or DMV.10 If convicted, you face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.11

California Vehicle Code 31 VC - False information

If you knowingly provide false information to a peace officer...for example...providing him/her with a forged or counterfeit disability placard or claiming that someone else's placard is your own...you violate Vehicle Code 31 VC California's law against proving false information to a peace officer.12 If convicted, you face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.13

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is charged with Vehicle Code 4461 VC misuse of disability placards and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on Vehicle Code 4463(b) or (c) California's Law Prohibiting Counterfeit Disability Placards; Vehicle Code 472 VC California's Law Against Forging, Counterfeiting, or Possessing Seals; Vehicle Code 20 VC California's Law Against Making False Statements to the DMV; Vehicle Code 31 VC California's Law Against Proving False Information to An Officer; California's Forgery Laws; and California Legal Defenses.

For information about Nevada forgery law, go to our page on Nevada forgery law.

Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Vehicle Code 4461 VC -- Illegal use of disability placards.  ("(a) A person shall not lend a certificate of ownership, registration card, license plate, special plate, validation tab, or permit issued to him or her if the person desiring to borrow it would not be entitled to its use, and a person shall not knowingly permit its use by one not entitled to it. (b) A person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued shall not lend the placard to another person, and a disabled person shall not knowingly permit the use for parking purposes of the placard or identification license plate issued pursuant to Section 5007 by one not entitled to it. A person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued may permit another person to use the placard only while in the presence or reasonable proximity of the disabled person for the purpose of transporting the disabled person. A violation of this subdivision is subject to the issuance of a notice of parking violation imposing a civil penalty of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), for which enforcement shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Article 3 (commencing with Section 40200) of Chapter 1 of Division 17 or is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both that fine and imprisonment. (c) Except for the purpose of transporting a disabled person as specified in subdivision (b), a person shall not display a disabled person placard that was not issued to him or her or that has been canceled or revoked pursuant to Section 22511.6. A violation of this subdivision is subject to the issuance of a notice of parking violation imposing a civil penalty of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), for which enforcement shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Article 3 (commencing with Section 40200) of Chapter 1 of Division 17 or is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both that fine and imprisonment. (d) Notwithstanding subdivisions (a), (b), and (c), a person using a vehicle displaying a special identification license plate issued to another pursuant to Section 5007 shall not park in those parking stalls or spaces designated for disabled persons pursuant to Section 22511.7 or 22511.8, unless transporting a disabled person. A violation of this subdivision is subject to the issuance of a notice of parking violation imposing a civil penalty of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), for which enforcement shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Article 3 (commencing with Section 40200) of Chapter 1 of Division 17 or is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both that fine and imprisonment. (e) For the purposes of subdivisions (b) and (c), "disabled person placard" means a placard issued pursuant to Section 22511.55 or 22511.59.")

3San Bernardino criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi uses his former experience as an Ontario Police Officer to represent clients throughout the Inland Empire including San Bernardino, Riverside, Banning, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow and Victorville.

4See Vehicle Code 4461 VC California's law against illegal use of disability placards, endnote 2, above.

5California Vehicle Code 4461.5 VC -- Additional civil penalties; convictions; disabled person placards; parking.  ("In addition to, or instead of, any fine imposed for conviction of a violation of subdivision (c) or (d) of Section 4461, the court may impose a civil penalty of not more than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500) for each conviction.")

6Vehicle Code 4463 VC -- California's fraudulent vehicle registration law.  ("(b) A person who, with intent to prejudice, damage, or defraud, commits any of the following acts is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for six months, a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both that fine and imprisonment, which penalty shall not be suspended: (1) Forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a disabled person placard or a comparable placard relating to parking privileges for disabled persons provided for by a foreign jurisdiction, or forges, counterfeits, or falsifies a disabled person placard with intent to represent it as issued by the department. (2) Passes, or attempts to pass, as true and genuine, a false, forged, or counterfeit disabled person placard knowing it to be false, forged, or counterfeited. (3) Acquires, possesses, sells, or offers for sale a genuine or counterfeit disabled person placard.  (c) A person who, with fraudulent intent, displays or causes or permits to be displayed a forged, counterfeit, or false disabled person placard, is subject to the issuance of a notice of parking violation imposing a civil penalty of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), for which enforcement shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Article 3 (commencing with Section 40200) of Chapter 1 of Division 17 or is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for six months, a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both that fine and imprisonment, which penalty shall not be suspended.")

7California Vehicle Code 4463.3 VC -- Additional civil penalties; convictions; forgery, alteration, counterfeit or falsification of disabled person placard.  ("In addition to, or instead of, any fine imposed for conviction of a violation of subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 4463, the court may impose a civil penalty of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for each conviction.")

8California Penal Code 472 PC -- Forgery or counterfeiting of seals; possession and concealment of counterfeited seal.  ("Every person who, with intent to defraud another, forges, or counterfeits the seal of this State, the seal of any public officer authorized by law, the seal of any Court of record, or the seal of any corporation, or any other public seal authorized or recognized by the laws of this State, or of any other State, Government, or country, or who falsely makes, forges, or counterfeits any impression purporting to be an impression of any such seal, or who has in his possession any such counterfeited seal or impression thereof, knowing it to be counterfeited, and willfully conceals the same, is guilty of forgery.")

9California Penal Code 473 PC -- Forgery; punishment.  ("Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year [thereby classifying the offense as a "wobbler"].")

See also California Penal Code 18 PC -- Punishment for felony not otherwise prescribed; alternate sentence to county jail.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony, or to be punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, is punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons for 16 months, or two or three years; provided, however, every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to be a felony punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons or by a fine, but without an alternate sentence to the county jail, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both.")

See also California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment.  ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

10California Vehicle Code 20 VC -- False statements.  ("It is unlawful to use a false or fictitious name, or to knowingly make any false statement or knowingly conceal any material fact in any document filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of the California Highway Patrol.")

11California Vehicle Code 40000.5 VC -- Misdemeanors.  ("A violation of any of the following provisions shall constitute a misdemeanor, and not an infraction: Section 20, relating to false statements. Section 27, relating to impersonating a member of the California Highway Patrol. Section 31, relating to giving false information. Paragraph (3) of subdivision (a), or subdivision (b), or both, of Section 221, relating to proper evidence of clearance for dismantling.")

See also California Penal Code 19 PC -- Punishment for misdemeanor; punishment not otherwise prescribed.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.")

12California Vehicle Code 31 VC -- False information to peace officer.  ("No person shall give, either orally or in writing, information to a peace officer while in the performance of his duties under the provisions of this code when such person knows that the information is false.")

13Endnote 11, above.

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