Bamboozled EXTRA : Wrong information on a parking ticket may get it dismissed, but not this time

 

BB brandingThe mystery of the parking ticket with the wrong address has been solved.

Sort of.

Helen and Jim Tarullo received two parking tickets in New York City in March.

On that spring day, Helen Tarullo left her Hackettstown home to pick up her husband from a hospital after cancer surgery.

The couple admit she made a parking mistake. Helen Tarullo parked their leased Infiniti on Lexington Avenue and she didn’t notice the Muni Meter signs.

She received not one ticket, but two, about an hour and fifteen minutes apart.

One ticket said she was parked on Lexington, as Helen Tarullo admits, but the other said the car was parked in front of a Third Avenue address.

The Tarullos paid the Lexington Avenue ticket, but they disputed the Third Avenue ticket with a five-page letter to the parking authority, asking for a dismissal.

It was not dismissed.

We were unsuccessful in reaching officials at the New York City Department of Finance about the fiasco, but they tracked us down after the story ran, asking for contact information for the Tarullos.

We learned a lot, both directly from Finance and from Helen Tarullo’s conversation with the Finance official.

Helen Tarullo said the Finance official told her that the location permitted cars to be ticketed once an hour. More importantly, the official explained an error by ticket officer.

The ticket officer who wrote the Third Avenue ticket was apparently working on Third Avenue before moving onto Lexington, Tarullo said she was told. The officer mistakenly wrote Third Avenue addresses for an unknown number of tickets for vehicles parked on Lexington, including the one Tarullo received.

“So I’m guilty of another hour but because the ticket wasn’t presented properly — it had the wrong facts on it — you should dismiss it,” Helen Tarullo said she told the rep. “I said, ‘Now all of a sudden because we got Bamboozled involved, you tell me now that the ticket agent in your employ previously was on Third Avenue so when she moved over to Lexington she made a mistake?'”

The rep also said the ticket would not be thrown out, even with the error, Tarullo said she was told. Instead, the official told Tarullo she could appeal the ticket.

Then we talked to the Finance official.

“It is possible to dismiss a ticket for a number of reasons, including a wrong address. In this case, however, on the face of the evidence presented to the judge, it was not unreasonable for someone to park in two locations in an hour and 15 minutes,” the official said. “Remember, the judges don’t have the benefit of a scenario, they make their decisions based on the evidence presented to them.”

But the written evidence presented by the Tarullos included Jim Tarullo’s discharge paperwork, which showed he was discharged between the times the first and second tickets were issued. The couple explained they had to move slowly because of Jim Tarullo’s post-surgical condition, and that it wouldn’t have made sense for Helen Tarullo to move the car to Third Avenue, which was a longer walk from the hospital. Helen Tarullo said she even tried to get security camera footage from the hospital to show she was there and not outside moving her car, but the hospital refused to share it for privacy reasons.

They knew something wasn’t right because they said Helen Tarullo never moved the car, but their five-page explanation with their request for dismissal didn’t include the ticket officer’s errors because they didn’t know that until later.

Finance said the couple still had a chance to appeal.

“After a hearing, a ticket holder can pay the ticket or appeal if they disagree with the outcome of the hearing,” the official said. “Mrs. Tarullo paid one ticket. It was suggested that she could appeal the second ticket and present the full scenario of events.”

It turns out that “the full scenario of events” wouldn’t be admissible as part of an appeal, but more on that in a moment.

We asked Finance to confirm that the ticket officer in question wrote other tickets on Lexington with a wrong address because the officer had previously been working on Third Avenue, but the official declined to comment.

The couple considered paying the ticket — under protest — but then, another whammy.

They received a letter from Infiniti, saying it had been notified about the ticket, and the leasing company payoid.

Jim Tarullo was furious.

“They paid the ticket and charged me a $10 administrative fee. They did not even call me to ask what’s going on with the ticket,” he said. “I told them that they — Infiniti — just paid a ticket that is not valid.”

It says in the lease that the Tarullos are responsible for any tickets, and that’s fine, he said. But, Jim Tarullo said, at least Infiniti could have called to see if the ticket was being disputed rather than just pay it.
MORE ABOUT FIGHTING TICKETS

While it may seem wrong information on a ticket would mean it would be thrown out, that’s not necessarily the case.

For starters, the process in New York City is very different from that of a New Jersey municipal court, said Casey Raskob, a New York State traffic attorney.

“The crucial difference is we all think we have a right to a trial, we have a right to confront our accuser and all those things, none of which really apply to traffic violations the way New York City plays the game,” he said.

He said in New Jersey, you’d meet with the prosecutor and maybe the officer who wrote the ticket, and then you’d all talk to the judge. It’s a fairly formal procedure where the parties traditionally treat each other with respect, he said.

For a parking ticket in the city, you don’t go before a judge, but a hearing examiner who is hired by New York City Department of Finance, Raskob said.

For this case in particular, we wanted to know if the parking ticket should have been tossed out because of the address mistake made by the ticketing officer.

Raskob said wrong information on a ticket can lead to a dismissal.

“With a parking ticket alone, an error should make the ticket dismissible because the ticket is the direct case against you,” he said. “It’s not the same as a speeding ticket where the cop gets the car color wrong but everything else is right.”

But the wrong information issue wouldn’t count here, all because of the timing, he said.

When the Tarullos asked for the dismissal, they didn’t raise the issue of the ticketing officer giving many tickets listing the wrong address on that day. That’s because they didn’t know “the full scenario of events” until later in the process. Because it wasn’t brought up the first time, they’re barred from bringing it up at appeal, Raskob said.

Raskob also said the Tarullos would have been better off making their case in person instead of in writing.

“No one wants to go to court,” he said. “But do not bother sending them anything in writing. They will just find you guilty. Take the time and go in to fight it.”

One more note on wrong information on a parking ticket: Raskob said if you receive a parking summons and the license plate is wrong, you can ignore it, because the wrong license plate has no link to you.

But don’t ignore a ticket issued for your license plate that has a different make and model of car. He said even if it wasn’t your car but the authorities have linked the ticket to your license plate, you could face huge fines or a license suspension for ignoring it, even if the ticket was wrong.

If you receive a parking ticket in New Jersey and some of the information on the ticket is wrong, you have a shot at fighting it, said Steve Carrellas of the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorists Association.

But it won’t be a slam dunk.

“The judge can inquire with the prosecutor or the police officer and the judge might dismiss it,” he said. “But if they have information and the police officer remembers it and says it was just a clerical error, the ticket can be amended.”

The Tarullos aren’t satisfied.

“They need to be responsible for the people they put out on the street to ticket cars and they need to own up to their mistakes,” Helen Tarullo said. “It’s immoral, unethical and ridiculous. They accept no responsibility when they do something wrong. It’s total nonsense. I hope they enjoy the $65.”

Have you been Bamboozled? Contact Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com.

 

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