(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, John Wisniewski and Daniel Benson to strengthen penalties for unauthorized parking in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities recently passed the full Assembly, 63-0-1.
The bill (A-2352) would establish a penalty of up to $500 for unlawfully using a parking placard issued to someone with a disability.
"Reserving parking spaces for individuals with disabilities is a fundamental element of our state's commitment to ensuring equal opportunity for all of our residents, and preserving the integrity of that commitment requires establishing consequences for abuse," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "By discouraging drivers from unlawfully using placards that belong to a friend or relative, this bill will help ensure that the designated spaces are used only by authorized parties."
The new penalty would be imposed in addition to the penalty for illegally parking in a parking space designated for individuals with disabilities. Current law sets the fine for parking in a restricted parking space without a placard at $250 for a first offense. Second and subsequent offenses carry a penalty of a minimum fine of $250 and up to 90 days of community service. The Motor Vehicle Commission may also revoke the placard or plates of a person who loans his or her placard or plates.
"Abuse of parking privileges intended to make facilities more accessible is a serious violation of the rights of New Jersey residents with disabilities, and it ought to be treated as such," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "This legislation will discourage such offenses and advance disability rights in our state."
"Restricted parking spaces facilitate self-sufficiency for New Jersey residents with disabilities and are representative of our state's belief that all people should have the opportunity to live, work and fully participate in society," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Safeguarding the rights of individuals with disabilities, as this bill does, must always be a priority."
Under the bill, "unlawful use" shall include display of a placard by:
- a person other than a driver or passenger who was lawfully issued a temporary or permanent placard;
- a person who continues to use a lawfully-issued temporary placard past its date of expiration; or
- a person who was issued a permanent placard and subsequently had his or her disability identification card revoked or deemed invalid.
The Assembly approved the bill on Thursday, December 3. The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, chaired by Wisniewski, released the bill in June.