Philly judge changes the rules for fighting parking tickets

    A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge has ruled that motorists who get parking tickets have the right to question their ticket-writer in court.

    Mt. Airy’s Briana Elzey walked out of her parking ticket hearing feeling the way many people do.

    “I don’t understand how this is a real hearing,” she said. “That’s all I’m saying. It’s not a real hearing.”

    Her main complaint — where are her rights to due process?

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    “You should have to face your accuser. I mean that’s what a court is,” she continued. “You don’t have to prove your innocence. They have to prove your guilt.”

    Until recently, that sentiment sounded like a dream. But last week, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Leon Tucker delivered a ruling that shakes up the entire culture of getting — and fighting — parking tickets in the city.

    Invoking state administrative law, he said tickets must be specific about the exact location of the offense and the accused must be allowed to question the ticket-writer in court.

    Charles Kovler, a Bucks County attorney, said he’s been raising this issue for years. He says the city has long abused people’s constitutional rights.

    “They stack the deck against anybody who wants to raise a defense,” said Kovler.

    But others question the logistics of having meter readers consistently called away from work to appear in court.

    “It would be a disaster,” said Ann Stewart even though she’s currently fighting a ticket herself. “I think it’s going down absolutely the wrong road.”

    A city representative said the law department is looking into the ruling but wouldn’t comment any further. It’s likely the city will appeal the decision.

    In the meantime, Chris Fernandez has his own plan.

    “If you gotta park over here, take the train,” he advises.

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