Is it illegal to borrow (or loan out) a handicapped placard?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 01, 2018 | 0 Comments

Vehicle Code 4461 is California's law against handicapped parking fraud. Among its provisions, VC 4461 makes it illegal to loan or borrow a handicapped parking placard unless:

  1. The person borrowing the placard is transporting the disabled person to whom the placard was issued, and
  2. The disabled person is in the vehicle or within reasonable proximity.

Example of handicapped parking fraud

Carol breaks her leg and is unable to drive. She obtains a temporary disabled parking placard for when her family and friends drive her places.
One day Carol's son Ron takes Carol to a movie. He drops her off in front of the theater and then goes and parks in a handicapped space. Even though Carol is not with him, this is a legal use of Carol's handicapped placard because:
  • Carol is nearby, and
  • Ron is transporting her.
If Ron takes Carol home and then goes grocery shopping for her, he cannot legally use her handicapped placard. Even though he is running errands for Carol, he is not transporting her.
If Ron were to use his mother's disabled placard for his own benefit, Ron would be guilty under VC 4461.
And if Carol knowingly let him do it, she would also be guilty. However, Carol would not be guilty if Ron took her disabled placard and did not tell her.

The penalty for misuse of a disabled placard in California

Misuse of a handicapped placard under California Vehicle Code 4461 is a so-called “wobblette” offense. It can be punished as either:

  • A civil infraction (similar to a parking ticket), or
  • A criminal misdemeanor.

If punished as an infraction, the penalty for handicapped parking fraud is a civil fine of between $250 and $1,000.

But if charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties for Vehicle Code 4461 can include:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail; and/or
  • A criminal fine of between $250 and $1,000.

Or the judge could sentence a defendant to misdemeanor (summary) probation.

If sentenced to probation, a defendant may have to:

  • Pay a fine,
  • Perform community service, and/or
  • Attend counseling.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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