December 19, 2012Criminal Law
What happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket?
If you live in a big city (or often travel to one) and own a car, parking tickets are just a fact of life. At least half of my friends who live in Chicago have a story about their car getting booted or towed for illegal parking and/or too many tickets.
So what happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket?
Every parking ticket comes with a fine (though in both Boulder, Colorado and Toronto, Canada, they’ve been known to give cars with out-of-state plates tickets that simply read “We noticed that you’re not from around here. Thanks for choosing to visit. We see that you’re parked illegally and request that you follow our parking rules during your stay.”)
If you don’t pay a parking ticket within a certain period, the fine goes up. Depending on where you are, the fine may go up more than once depending on how long the ticket remains unpaid. Additionally, if you get too many tickets in one location, the city may place a boot on your vehicle or tow the vehicle, and force you to pay a hefty penalty to get the vehicle back/unbooted.
2. Civil penalties, not criminal.
It’s important to note that parking tickets are civil penalties, not criminal ones. That means that outstanding parking tickets will not result in a misdemeanor (or felony) appearing on your record, and will not show up on a background check (though they may show up on a credit score, as discussed below).
Unlike speeding tickets, failure to pay parking tickets will very rarely lead to a court issuing a warrant for your arrest.
If you choose to fight a parking ticket, and then fail to appear at the court hearing, the judge could issue a warrant for your arrest for your failure to appear.
While it varies from city to city, it normally takes a very high number of tickets/very large amount of outstanding fines before a judge would issue a warrant simply for outstanding parking tickets.
4. Parking tickets and your credit score.
Having outstanding parking tickets can negatively affect your credit score. If a ticket remains outstanding for too long, the issuing city may eventually turn the ticket over to a collection agency. At that point, the outstanding ticket will appear as a black mark on your credit score the same way an unpaid cell phone bill will. Depending on who you ask, and what your credit score is to begin with, outstanding parking tickets can (allegedly) lead to a 20-125 point hit on your credit score.
5. In-state Penalties worth fearing.
While it is unlikely that you’ll wind up with a warrant for your arrest, outstanding parking tickets from your home state can lead to the local DMV not allowing you to renew your license plate until the fines are paid. You won’t lose your driver’s license, however. Additionally, some states will withhold tax refunds on the basis of outstanding parking fines. This would only occur for parking tickets received in the state where you pay taxes/register your vehicle.
So for those of you Michiganders who like to rack up parking tickets on your trips to Chicago, your credit score could take a hit if you don’t pay, but you’re not going to jail, and won’t lose your driving privileges, though they may boot/tow you the next time you decide not to feed a meter.
The moral of this story? You’re not likely to go to jail for not paying your tickets, but the penalties are potentially much more severe than simply getting an annoying letter every so often, so pay your parking tickets!
The information on this blog is for informational purposes only. The posts are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied.