By Ann O’Shea
Ann O’Shea is a journalist, lawyer, retired New York State judge, and 50-plus-year resident of the Upper West Side.
The Parking ticket stuck on the windshield of my car — parked on the “good side” across the street from my home on West 87th Street — charged me with displaying a “counterfeit” inspection sticker in violation of §4-08(j)(7) of the NYC Traffic Rules. Section 4-08(j)(7) prohibits the display of an inspection sticker that is “mutilated, imitation, or counterfeit.” The charge was preposterous. I would have no reason – or ability — to find or fabricate a counterfeit inspection sticker.
I got the ticket on October 8, 2022. On October 15, 2022, began my Kafkaesque journey through the obtuse, irrational process of challenging a parking ticket. I pleaded “not guilty” on the website of the Department of Finance (DOF), which is the agency that processes parking tickets, and uploaded a copy of the Vehicle Inspection Report, which confirmed the issuance, in November 2021, of a valid inspection sticker by a registered and certified vehicle inspection station. The DOF confirmed online that it had received my plea and evidence. I waited for the decision, checking my email and my snail mail every day.
I never received a decision. Instead, on January 7, 2023, I received a “Notice of Open Violation,” dated January 4, 2023, which accused in bold letters, “You have not responded to the violation(s) issued to a vehicle registered in your name. You must respond by the due date. You must pay in full or DISPUTE THE VIOLATIONS.” The “due date” stated in the Notice of Open Violation was January 30, 2023.
I responded in a letter dated January 8, 2023, that I had, in fact, responded to the ticket online on October 15, 2022. I attached copies of the DOF acknowledgement of receipt of my not guilty plea, my Vehicle Inspection Report, and the original ticket, all of which I sent Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. I eventually received an acknowledgement of receipt of my letter and documents. I still had not received a decision on my “not guilty” plea.
On February 1, 2023, I received, not a decision on my challenge to the ticket, but a letter dated January 30, 2023, informing me that “a hearing was held on 10-27-22,” where I was “found guilty,” and, as “no application for an appeal had been submitted within the time allotted,” payment of the $65 fine was due immediately. I rechecked my email; there was no decision or any other communication from the DOF.
On February 5, 2023, I drafted yet another response, to which I attached copies of the ticket, the Vehicle Inspection Report, the DOF’s acknowledgement of receipt of my online plea, the Notice of Open Violation, and my January 8th response. I also submitted a DOF Appeal Application form and requested an appointment with the “Parking Advocate.” I was given a choice of dates and times for a meeting with the Parking Advocate; I chose Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2023, at 10:30 AM. I received an online confirmation – and two subsequent “Friendly Reminders” — of my February 14th appointment with the Parking Advocate.
On Valentine’s Day, I appeared at 66 John Street for my appointment with the Parking Advocate. I checked in at 10:00 AM and was told by the Clerk that I would be called when it was my turn. By 11:15, when I had not been called, I asked another Clerk when I would be called. She replied, “you know, I haven’t seen the Parking Advocate today. Let me check his office.” She returned and informed me that the Parking Advocate’s office was locked up, and he did not appear to be there, saying, “I don’t know why he’s not here. He’s supposed to be here on Tuesdays.” I left copies of my February 5, 2023 response for delivery to the DOF Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner, and the General Counsel.
Later that afternoon, I received a call from the assistant to the Deputy Commissioner. It was at this point that the strange turned bizarre. The Assistant asked me if I had replaced my windshield sometime before getting the ticket. As it so happened, I had, earlier in the summer, as my windshield was cracked and the crack was growing. “Aha!” the Assistant exclaimed. “That explains it!” According to the Assistant, NYC Inspection Stickers are treated with a special, secret chemical, which renders the sticker “void” when it is exposed to the air.
The technician at the Safelite windshield shop had told me that they would try to remove my inspection and registration stickers from the old windshield and reattach them to the new one, but he warned that if the stickers were damaged in the process, I would have to replace them. He did not tell me that once exposed to the air, my inspection sticker would magically be voided. When I retrieved my car, the inspection and registration stickers were neatly attached to the new windshield with no apparent damage or change.
Nonetheless, the Assistant’s assertion that NYC’s secret alchemy would render my inspection sticker “void,” without the law or rules giving notice to car owners of this trap, seemed incredible. I am a lawyer and checked the New York City Traffic Rules once again. Nothing there to warn car owners of the secret alchemy. I checked the regulations of the New York State DMV. Nothing there either. However, the State DMV website, in response to a FAQ, instructs car owners that, if your inspection sticker comes off, just “attach it to the windshield again with clear tape or a small amount of clear adhesive.” Apparently, New York State, which regulates car inspections, does not subscribe to the same secret chemical magic that New York City does.
The DOF Assistant arranged an extension of my time to appeal the guilty decision that I had never received. I did receive a notice that my appeal hearing was scheduled for March 16, 2023, at 12:30 PM at 66 John Street. I appeared on the appointed date and at the appointed time before a panel of three appeal “judges,” who demanded that I tell them what mistake in the facts or the law the original judge had made. I told them that I did not know because I had never received a copy of the decision. That did not faze the appellate panel in the least. One of them printed out the decision and handed it to me. I was given 30 seconds to read the decision. It stated that my Vehicle Inspection Report was “unpersuasive” and that my inspection sticker was “void.” Only because the Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner had informed me of the secret chemical process that magically rendered an inspection sticker “void” when exposed to the air did I understand how that could be.
The appellate “judges” demanded an immediate answer. I argued that there was nothing in the law that would notify a citizen that his or her inspection sticker would be rendered void if exposed to the air, that the NYS website provided contradictory information, that I did not observe anything indicating the inspection sticker was voided, and that my inspection sticker was not “mutilated, imitation or counterfeit,” in violation of §4-08(j)(7), but was, in fact, the same inspection sticker that had been attached to my old windshield.
On March 22, 2023, the Appeal Panel affirmed the guilty verdict. While I could go to court to challenge the decision, I would have to pay a $350 filing fee to do so.
Absolutely absurd and not at all surprising. I had a very similar experience in May 2020 when I got a ticket for not having license plates on my vehicle (only temp plate from the dealer which had expired) despite the fact that NYS hadn’t sent permanent plates which were delayed due to a COVID backlog.
Appealed as was found guilty.
The city is basically running a criminal enterprises of traffic / parking enforcement with zero remedy to citizens who are already overtaxed and underserved.
Equally absurd that weed trucks can park wherever they want 24/7, yet if you aren’t in your car by 11:33 on cleaning day you’ve got that lovely orange slip on the windshield.
Traffic enforcement and Police officers allows numerous vehicles that are owned by street vendors to stay parked 24/7 all over the neighborhood. Not only do they take away parking for casual parkers, but they also don’t allow the sweepers to do their job. We should not be patronizing those vendors who don’t think the rules apply to them. It’s also ironic that for the screaming about eCommerce ruining out retail landscape, that people would patronize these vendors and not the brick-and-mortar establishments.
And with zero actual enforcement or consequences to the dangerous traffic participants.
Have you completed your metamorphosis?
Gregor Samsa, if given the option, would have remained a giant bug than change places with a litigant in parking violations court.
Unless the summons is void on its face, don’t use the mail. Go in person and see the judge face to face.
Unfortunately, her story has personal resonance. A year ago September, I arrived at my car to find my front license plate on the street in front of my car. I was told that in an effort to park, a truck slammed into it and knocked the plate off, and then drove away. While the apartment building had a security camera, which would identify the car’s license plate, the building manager refused to let me view it without a police report. The police wouldn’t let me file one because “the damage was under$1000 but told me to put the license plate on my dash board with a note until I could get it reattached, which cost $500. In the interim, I collected five $65 tix, three of which were proclaimed “not guilty.” One of the not guilty decisions was made by the very same judge who moments later declared a separate ticket “guilty. “ I appealed contradictory decision and was given a decision that made no sense. Furious that I not only was stuck with a $500 damage bill but then was declared guilty for a crime I only committed on the advice of the 20th precinct police, I still have not paid it.
I had a similar experience. My license plate was bumped into so many times that it finally came off and luckily I found it under the car. The holes for attaching it were broken through so I couldn’t put it back on. I put it on the dashboard in full view and obviously mangled but I got a ticket because it wasn’t attached to the front bumper. I had already ordered new plates and sent that in with pictures of the mangled plate on the dashboard. The ticket was dismissed, but not because of any of the submitted facts, but because of a problem with how the ticket was written.
For future reference, you can have someone in an autoshop make new holes for you to put the license plate back on your car. My car was in a wreck with the license plate somewhat mangled. They banged it out and put it back on and it’s been there for years now. Don’t feel like paying $100 for new plates.
I’m a lawyer and I can state without fear of contradiction that appearing in person is very important, often dispositive.
It would probably be a good idea to remove the photo that accompanies this article or at least black out information like your plate number and VIN
Before commenting please keep in mind that the ticket was on the windshield for anyone to see.
Before commenting? Tickets are placed, with a return envelope, in a way that makes them quite hard to read until removed from under the wiper. And the identifying data in question is readily accessible on every parked car.
Did you notify the Public Advocate’s office?
I’m sorry this happened – but fantastic storytelling lol – Bureaucracy is just the best
Sounds about right. Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. Time to move on.
I am very carefull about parking – but I have now 3 times got a parking ticket where it is objectively wrong – I then complaint and upload pictures where it is clear (as it can be on pictures) that I am allow to park there – anyway they just write that pictures are not good enough and if you want to complain again the process is much more difficult – so i end up paying, No sense of justice
So sorry to read of your attempts to rectify an error and to find reasonable judgements along the way. The various city departments involved, including the final crew are all failures.
This is quite a brilliant piece of writing, somehow making clear the inexplicable. But it begs the question, how did America ever win WWII? And what has happened to us since?
My blood is boiling in sympathy!
Thank-you for sharing this. Most people have no time or skill to what you did.
Ridiculous. Glad to chip in to help you take the appeal.
I bet many people after reading this well written article are thinking the same thing. If Ms. O’Shea, a lawyer and retired New York State judge had this experience and is still deemed guilty, how could mere mortals fare any differently? At least to me, your inspection sticker is not actually counterfeit; it’s just that the special, secret chemical says it is. An appellate court should have recognized the difference. That’s why we have human judges and not computers making these decisions. Or at least that’s what I had hoped.
Your ironclad evidence proving your innocence does not matter. The administrative judges— per diems chosen through the political process— will not be reappointed if they find you NOT guilty. So, there is overwhelming incentive to find all those who dare to question their tickets to be GUILTY. President Putin would be proud of this set up!!
Hello Dear Anne: I, am also a car owner, and also appealed parking tickets in the old days. But it was so much effort and my appeals were ALWAYS denied with anything but an irrational comment. I just gave up and paid. I have great compassion for the crazy story you shared here. Thank you. It is validating to know that you are not the only one!!
Happy o pay the filing fee if you will waste your time appealing!
I recently faced an administrative judge who was absent on the day her law school professor lectured on “common sense”. Unlike most US courts , you are presumed GUILTY unless you can overwhelmingly show otherwise. I would kindly ask the retired judge to file a FOIL request with the PVB. What percentage of people who plead “Not Guilty” are absolved? And what percentage of folks who appeal to the 3 “judge” PANEL are found “innocent?” Guaranteed that both of these figures are single digit numbers. After all, if the administrative “judges”-they are per diem outside contractors-find more than a few people innocent they will NOT be renewed by the Finance Dept. This is A STACKED DECK against the public which needs to be exposed!
Oy v ey, what a hassle. And you do write VERY well and clearly. Frustrating, isn’t it, jousting with PVB windmills and their court systems. I’ve lost on battling a red light tix while on a bike .. which red light I didn’t go thru. But try to prove that? LOL.
Good luck to you.
It’s the same everywhere. I just got back from Miami (we drove there) and you have to pay for street parking pretty much all hours of day and night with a mobile app. I have been to Miami several times and paid like I normally do.
Got back to my car and there was a ticket with a time stamp.
I had a receipt from the app which showed I had paid.
Only way to appeal the case was to be there in person and I had to come back to NY.
I wrote a letter explaining the situation requesting that they don’t cash the check which I had included.
Needless to say, they cashed the check.
What an aggravating story it makes me worry more about the state of our city.
I’m in the midst of a similar experience. I have an online meeting with the Parking Summons Advocate scheduled later this week. My issue is I got a legit alternate side ticket last October, and rather than wait for the violation to be entered in the system, I got it over with fast by paying the $65 fine using license plate only. Huge mistake. It was too much for them to handle. I took my receipt of payment as proof it was done. Fast forward to February 2023 and I get a notice of outstanding violation adding a $10 penalty. I appeal the decision and send all the documentation including the ACH record from my bank. No word for more than a month then suddenly a decision comes out that my appeal is denied and states “He asks that the penalties be removed or reduced and persuasively testifies that he did not receive any prior notice of this summons,” which not only do I not understand, but it isn’t the case. It’s as if they have me confused with another violator.
It’s almost more trouble than it’s worth vs. just paying another $75 to make this go away, but I can’t on principle do that. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry you had to endure all that.
I hope I prevail but I am skeptical of this racket.
I received, contested, appealed, and re-appealed before that 3-judge panel a NYC camera speeding ticket that alleged I was driving 39 MPH in a 25 zone. (Insert here a long story about DOF advising me not to submit any evidence in my appeal but to save it for the judge, then having my appeal rejected for not having submitted any evidence, and the rejection arriving in the mail 41 days after my response was due, stuck to a rejection intended for some other poor slob in another borough — Kafkaesque, indeed). I brought with me documentation from my State Farm Safe Driver tracker that showed I was driving 8 MPH at the time. A Google Maps Timeline of the trip corroborated the State Farm data. The panel could find no error in the original judge’s ruling and the tracker data was “unpersuasive” stacked against the infallible authority of the speeding camera. Guilty. Pay up.
Are you kidding? Pay the filing fee. Go to court. Demand retribution and restitution.
Hi there, concerned reader. You absolutely should not under any circumstances share information in a public forum on the internet that can be linked back to you like your name, the make and model of your vehicle, your license plate number, or on what block you live. Bad actors can use this information to target you when you give this much detail.
Before commenting please keep in mind that the ticket was on the windshield for anyone to see.
I got about this parking ticket number on RSD where I was legally parked … the summons was just an out right lie. Try to prove a negative… Rogue cops greed city coffers and an appeal situation that is built to make you avoid it
Perhaps if the 3 judge panel had not been told about the replacement windshield and that exposure to air invalidated the sticker they might have ruled otherwise. Admitting that the sticker was exposed to air gave them a basis for the guilty verdict. It’s convoluted thinking, but we’re talking about a convoluted system here.
Isn’t the sticker “exposed to air” when it is placed on the windshield when it’s brand new?
Exposed to air? Sounds like poppycock to me.
It seems they were intent on finding her guilty regardless.
The motor a vehicle dept has never been the most reliable. My daughter was given an appointment to take her drivers license exam on a certain date. Needless to say, she was really excited for weeks. We arrived at the testing sight only to find it was closed. After a long time on the phone, we were given another appointment, two months later. My daughter was inconsolable. oh yea! The reason the office was closed: the clerk forgot the DMV is closed on Martin Luther King’s Birthday. However, I fought hard enough that she was given her test two days later. Sometimes you really can fight city hall.
Oy. A sad classic. The DMV and Jury Duty bureaucracies did such a beautiful job (relatively speaking) of becoming more quick, logical and efficient since the old days. Time for some bureaucracy busting at the DOF. Taking citizens money without cause is two -bit city gangster action. This is one they could correct. And should. It’s a stupid traffic violation glitch, secret chemical or no. The next thing the traffic folks need to fix is to correctly fine all the drivers with license plates strategically “folded” to avoid tolls….the net revenue would be greater and the traffic less if they fixed both issues.
Welcome to the world of parking violations! The warning “all who enter here are deemed guilty” should be posted above the entry. I have entered many times and the correspondence would fill a volume- all one sided as the only words I ever saw were “guilty “ or some variation of it. Now I don’t bother arguing, regardless of the injustice, incorrectness or stupidity. No doubt that is their goal!
Possible help. Google “7 on your side”, Nina Pineda the Channel 7 (ABC) consumer advocate, for assistance. This would seem to be just up her alley when it comes to fighting on your behalf.
Good idea. Maybe also consider contacting WNBC’s Lynda Baquero: she and her Consumer Affairs team can be reached by phone at 1-866-NEWS-244. You can also email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The more press, the better!
It’s stories like these that made me finally decide to keep my car in a garage and this was 25 years ago. It was pricey then too. My building wanted the same price as my rent — so I went a few block down the street toward West End and found a slightly cheaper one. Even that seemed like an insult…. on a rainy day I had to take a bus to get to my car.
Sounds like another one of trump’s business ventures
About a year ago I arrived at my car to find three parking tickets on my windshield. The accusation: registration was out of date. While this was true, I had stuck up a temporary registration that the DMV sent be because by their own admission they were late sending out the registration. I contest the tickets, which you have to do individually. I provided evidence: photos of the temporary registration clearly displayed as well as the email from the DMV. About two months later, over the course of ten days the responses come back. One of the tickets was rescinded, two were not – citing insufficient evidence. The bast part – the rescinded ticket and one of the upheld tickets came from the same judge, dated three days apart. The third decision was made by a different judge.
I’m still back on the “invalid when exposed to air” part. Huh? All inspection stickers are exposed to air when you peel off the backing. I don’t get it.
You should also send this. Wry well written letter to the major New York publications to show how ‘user friendly’ our system is. They count on wearing you down because they don’t have to be accountable. Let it get some more publicity and list the names of the administrative law judges who arrived at their brilliant decision.
*very well written
My car doesn’t have a front license plate attachment so when I changed from out-of-state plates last fall, I got two tickets for placing my NYS front plate on the dash. I ordered the attachment but it hadn’t arrived yet. I got one ticket dismissed with a formal letter, photos of the front of my car and the receipt of front plate attachment purchase. The second ticket was dated prior to the purchase so I didn’t think it was worth it and paid the $65. . After reading these comments, looks like I was lucky!
Send this to the mayors office. He ran on eliminating this bs.
The Mayor seems to be interested in the bicycle lobby, restaurant street shacks and casinos these days
More than 40 years ago I returned to my car to find a cop writing a ticket. By my new digital watch it was only 25 minutes since I fed the meter. The cop agreed and told me to write a letter saying it was a fast meter. After many letters back and forth over two years, and after threat of legal action, I finally gave in and sent payment. Two weeks later I received a letter with the check returned to me. See, I told my secretary, they finally realized I was right. She laughed and told me to read the letter which rejected my check and demanded a cashier’s check. I tore up my check and the letter, never paid and never heard another word about it.
Where are the citycouncilmembers we vote for?
Though they don’t mention in election PR materials, the City Council seems only interested in supporting the bicycle lobby.
They spend more time advocating for bicycles than for bus and subways.
Cars are a no-no
the whole thing is bananas! I once got a ticket for being parked on 125th street in front of a fire hydrant. I was parked in the 90’s never anywhere near 125. Just out of curiosity I drove to the said address and there was not even a fire hydrant on that street. I plead not
guilty and instead of hearing a response was fined with a late fee. Another time I received a letter in the mail stating I had an unpaid parking ticket- that I never received, nor miss alternate side parking. So sorry it happened to you as well.
We are told in at least one comment below (I have not read all comments) that we are under the reign of President Putin.
I suggest that in general, the amount of kvetching about life on the UWS is out of proportion to the magnitude of the evils that attend our lives here.
Here’s to the positive articles on West Side Rag. After reading complaints on here, do I want to move to, say, Tennessee? No!
Granted, there are problems. But can we take the level of neighborhood cheerleading that already exists and ramp it up a few more notches? Life in, say, a brownstone block on the UWS has much to say for itself.
Adding: I misread the comment that mentioned President Putin. My bad. It was comparing practices in NYC to practices we hear about in Russia.
A terrible system in handling vehicle “violations”.
Positively Orwellian as well as indicative of the mass of bureaucratic bloat that is NYC government.
Lenny Bruce encapsulated this episode when he said, “In the halls of justice the only justice is in the halls “
Just got my windshield replaced yesterday and, sure enough, my inspection sticker now says VOID VOID VOID and demands replacing. I’m sure this means another visit to my friendly local shop and a couple hours of my time and some exchange of cash. The car was just inspected 8 weeks ago. Aaaaargh.
I did once get a good outcome from disputing a wrongful parking ticket. It was all done through the mail, but this was before COVID. Perhaps city employees aren’t in the office 5 days a week? (Why did they say that the person you were to see was “usually in on Tuesdays”…should they be there EVERYDAY?? I think we have to get back to normal. This isn’t fair to tax paying citizens. If anything we are paying MORE taxes, and getting SO MUCH LESS!!
About 1/3 of the jobs at the department of finance are vacant right now. I’ve been waiting two months for a parking tax exemption for Manhattan residents after I filed for it on their website. Every month I don’t get it costs me like another 50 bucks.
It’s not just NYC. I once got a $285 moving violation for going 30 in a 30 speed limit. I was driving a NY-plated rental car through eastern Connecticut. Disputing the ticket in court would involve another rental car, plus hotel and 2 days off work, all more than ticket. And, I could not figure out what to argue, given that I was charged with doing something apparently lawful. Kafkaesque indeed.
NYC ticketing is just a revenue grab from NYers who already pay exorbitant income, sales, property and other taxes. Taxation with zero representation
I want to laugh but I can’t. This is so wrong. Can you sue in small claims for the waste of your time and lost wages?