CA Vehicle Code 4461 VC

VC 4461 – Illegal Disability Placards, License Plates

Illegal Disability Placards, Plates – Table of Contents

VC 4461 - Illegal Use of Disability Placards

VC 4461 – Overview

Due to rising congestion and the ever elusive availability of parking in Los Angeles, some people may resort to unheard of tactics. Beware, however, that misuse of a disability or handicap placard (VC 4461) is a criminal offense in California.

Under Vehicle Code Section 4461, it is illegal to mishandle a validly-issued California state disabled person placard.

There are four ways in which an individual can violate the statute:

  1. By knowingly lending a valid disability placard to someone who is not entitled to its use;
  2. By knowingly allowing the use of a valid disability placard or identification license plate to be used for parking purposes by another driver who is not entitled to its use;
  3. By displaying a disabled person placard that was not issued to him or her, or that has been canceled or revoked; or
  4. By using a vehicle displaying a special identification license plate issued to another to park in those parking stalls or spaces designated for disabled persons.

Note: These provisions do not apply when a person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued permits another person to use the placard while in his or her presence or reasonable proximity for the purpose of transporting the disabled person.

A “disabled person placard” means a placard issued pursuant to Vehicle Code Sections 22511.55 or 22511.59.

California Vehicle Code 4461 seeks to halt handicapped parking fraud by preventing people from wrongfully using the valid disabled parking placard or license plates of another.

Vehicle Code 4461 – Sentencing

Knowingly lending or allowing the use of a valid disability placard or identification license plate to be used by another driver for driving or parking purposes is considered a violation, imposing a fine between two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and one thousand dollars ($1,000), or a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to six months.

This means that the offense can be punished either as a civil infraction (akin to a parking violation), or as a criminal misdemeanor.

However, Vehicle Code Section 4461 is infrequently charged as a misdemeanor.

Rather, the statute is often levied as a civil infraction, requiring only a fine to satisfy the court. The minimum civil fine for misuse of a disabled placard is two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and the maximum is one thousand dollars ($1,000).

Nevertheless, someone who does not pay the fine can also be charged with Vehicle Code Section 40508, failure to appear or pay for a traffic citation.

When misuse of handicapped tags or plates is charged as a misdemeanor, potential penalties consist of up to six months incarceration in county jail, in addition to any fines. In the alternative, a defendant could be sentenced to probation.

However, defendants sentenced to probation may still have to pay a fine and/or perform other court-mandated activities such as participating in community service or counseling sessions.

Whether or not Vehicle Code 4461 is charged as an infraction or as a misdemeanor, the court may order payment of an additional fine of up to $1,500. As noted in Vehicle Code Section 4461.5:

In addition to, or instead of, any fine imposed for conviction of a violation of subdivision (c) or (d) of Section 4461, the court may impose a civil penalty of not more than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500) for each conviction.

Several Illegal Disability Placards

VC § 4461.5. This fee is more likely to be imposed against a driver who illegally uses a placard or license plates to park in a disability spot or area. However, it is not often directed towards a valid placard owner who knowingly lends another his or her credentials.

Furthermore, cities and counties have the ability to affix additional penalties to any fine under Vehicle Code Section 4461.3:

“In addition to any fine imposed for conviction of a violation of Section 4461 or 22507.8, a city or county may adopt an ordinance or resolution to assess an additional penalty of one hundred dollars ($100).”

Therefore, even if brought forth as an infraction, violation of California handicap placard use laws can create significant financial concerns for those cited.

Vehicle Code 4461 – Prosecuting

Whether an individual is prosecuted or cited is within the purview of the District Attorney’s Office. A prosecutor may be more likely to seek criminal liability depending on the severity of the conduct and/or any history of similar violations.

Vehicle Code 4461 – Defending

As described above, if a driver is actively transporting a disabled person at the time the disability placard is being used, he or she cannot be guilty of unlawful use of the same. Therefore, no actual misuse of the credentials is an effective and sound defense to violation of Vehicle Code Section 4461.

Parking in a handicapped spot is not considered a violation of the statute so long as:

  1. The person to whom the placard or plates was issued is near the vehicle and within close proximity; and
  2. The individual driving the vehicle was transporting that person.

VC § 4461(b). The person with the disability does not necessarily have to be in the car in order to use this defense.

Another well-grounded and tested defense is lack of knowledge. The entitled owner of a disabled person placard cannot be prosecuted under Vehicle Code Section 4461 if the placard was used without their knowledge.

The person must knowingly allow another to borrow or use their credentials to park in disability zones that they are not authorized to otherwise. Therefore, an individual cannot be guilty under Vehicle Code 4461 of letting someone else use their disability placard or license plate unless they knowingly sanctioned it.

However, if a placard is taken without the owner’s permission, the owner is not liable under the statute. A person should and cannot be punished for not keeping a close enough eye on their belongings. In order to be charged and found guilty, an individual must have given the placard to the other person for a reason other than to be transported.



We’re Here to Help

Unlawful use of a disability placard is a serious offense that can expose those convicted to a variety of criminal sanctions and penalties. It is of the utmost importance that if you or someone you know has been charged with unlawful use of a disability placard, you speak with a knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Your freedom depends on finding an experienced Los Angeles Defense Attorney immediately. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can work on getting your case drastically reduced or dismissed entirely.

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Esfandi Law Group
Lara S.
June 4, 2018
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

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