DMV cracking down on illegal use of disabled placards

Some San Jose drivers may have gotten more than they bargained for Monday, while misusing a disabled placard to get more convenient parking. That’s because DMV investigators were out doing enforcement, and handing out citations.

“It continuously surprises me. it frustrates me that so many people have a blatant disregard for the needs of those with disabilities in our communities,” said Jaime Garza, a spokesman for the California Deptartment of Motor Vehicles.

For two hours Monday morning, a handful of DMV investigators and San Jose parking enforcement officers, canvassed a six-block stretch of San Fernando Street near the San Jose State University campus. One student was cited for illegally using a disabled placard to get better parking while taking her last final of the semester.

“We feel bad that we’ve made someone’s day a little bit harder. But the reality is, I feel worse for the person who can’t park there because the spot’s taken,” said Sgt. Wendy Espinoza, a supervising investigators with the DMV.

State investigators say hanging placards are assigned to people, and the ones on license plates, to a disabled person’s vehicle. The registered owner must be present while the placard is used. Caregiver Alvie Valencia arrived hours early to pick-up her client from the Jeanne Darc Manor apartments on South 5th Street in Downtown San Jose. She parked in a handicapped space, but never went to get her client, and was nearly cited. She blamed the miscue on miscommunication.

“I thought that I had to take her to her doctor. Because her daughter mentioned that I should come and take her. And she said, ‘no, I told you to be here at 1pm,’” said Valencia.

Officers did not give her a citation, just a warning, and a lecture in the proper use of disabled placards. She was given a San Jose city ticket for failing to feed the parking meter.

State officials say dating back to fiscal year 2013, both the number of operations, and citations has steadily increased, from 526 in ’13 to 2,485 in FY ‘17. San Jose parking officials say they’ve seen a similar increase, from several hundred tickets per year to a little over a thousand a year.

"We have more officers out in the field paying attention to these types of violations,” said Heather Hoshii, a spokeswoman for the San Jose Deptartment of Transportation.

Another San Jose State student, who parked on campus to take a test, was using someone else’s placard, according to state investigators. And, she was driving without her driver’s license.

Fifty-one people were checked for placard use today, with two citations and six city tickets issued. A San Jose city ticket for illegal use of a placard costs $410. The state citation fine is $250, and you also have to go before a county judge to adjudicate your case. Officials say total costs can run over $1,000.

Officials say despite an increase the past five years in citations, they believe numbers are plateauing in San Jose, and may represent the beginnings of a decline, which would indicate success. They were unable to provide exact figures, and say they will have an update before the end of the fiscal year June 30.