May 24, 2011
By Jordan W. Charness
Jack is a really good friend of mine. He is a top-notch lawyer and one of the senior partners in a large firm. He’s a pretty smart guy; he would have to be, given that he is an expert in tax law, which has to be one of the most complicated and difficult areas of the field. Perhaps it’s because he is such an expert in his field that he knows so little about mine.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of representing extended members of his family for various traffic tickets and offences, most of which were really not deserved. I was, however, pretty surprised when he called me last week to say that he himself had received a traffic ticket.
I asked him what type of offense he had been cited for, and he said it was a parking ticket. My advice was swift and immediate: “Pay the ticket,” I told him.
“But you haven’t even heard my story,” he replied.
“I know,” I said, but it was only a $23 parking ticket and even if he was right, the time and energy that we would have to expend defending it wasn’t worth it.
That is actually a flaw in our legal system, in that defending something as small as a parking ticket will often cost more in time and lost wages than it would to pay a traffic ticket that really isn’t deserved.
There are some jurisdictions that are making it easier to contest your ticket, either at night or even in writing, but for the most part the system still makes it a very difficult thing to do.
But back to Jack…
Jack insisted that he was in the right. He said that the parking meter was one of the type that had two parking meters on the same pole. What happened to him was that he had parked in one spot, but accidentally put money in the meter for the other spot. Once again, my advice was swift and immediate.
“Pay the ticket,” I said.
But Jack wasn’t finished. He said that logically he felt that he had a case. After all, the city did indeed get paid for parking and he had been the one doing the paying. According to his logic, even though he paid for the wrong spot, the city had been paid and therefore suffered no loss.
I pointed out to him that there was a certain flaw in his logic. The city could rightfully expect to earn revenue from both parking spots. In fact what had happened here was that the city did get paid for one parking spot but not for the one where Jack had parked. Therefore, I pointed out, the city had indeed lost revenue since it had only been paid for one spot and not two.
But Jack wasn’t finished. He said that he was willing to testify that no one had parked in the other spot where he had paid and therefore in reality the city really did not lose and has been paid for all the people parking in the spots during that two-hour period.
“Pay the ticket,” I said.
After all, I pointed out that even if no one had actually parked in that spot, and even if he had actually been looking at that spot for the entire two hours, the city could reasonably expect that someone might be parking in that spot and they might indeed be earning revenue from the two of them.
Jack wasn’t entirely happy but did finally see the logic and the flaws in his case. Just to be nice, I did offer to make the ticket go away for only $30. When he asked what I was going to do, I told him that the solution was simple. I would pay the $23 ticket and use the other seven dollars to buy an expensive coffee… on him.