California lawmakers requested audit into abuse of disabled parking placards thanks in part to an NBC 7 Investigates story

California Assemblymen Eric Linder and Mike Gatto requested a Department of Motor Vehicle audit because rampant abuse of the disability parking placard system starts with the DMV, they said.

Gatto said after seeing news stories like the one NBC 7 Investigates aired two years ago, he wanted more to be done. Two years ago, in an undercover investigation, NBC 7 Investigates found state and city employees parking for free in downtown San Diego using disabled placards that did not belong to them.

To see the story, click here.

“I have been following this issue for quite some time and I’ve seen the reports on your station, where sting operations occur and a lot of drivers who are clearly abusing the system,” Gatto said. “The public is very sick of what’s going on out there, they have seen the stories, they have seen the streets where every single car has a placard displayed, they know there are people abusing the system and taking advantage of it.”

Linder and Gatto requested the audit last year and the results of that audit are expected to be complete in the next few weeks.

Click here to read their letter requesting the audit.

According to the audit request, the auditor is looking at a variety of issues including:

  • If medical providers and doctors are vouching for people who aren’t really disabled?
  • If some people been issued more than one placard?
  • How many placards are still out there even though the owner is deceased?

Gatto said the findings could lead to changes in the way DMV handles placard distribution. He also said he hopes it can provide data to support new laws.

“You have unethical members of the public that are willing to take these spots away from those that need them,” he said. “You probably have doctors that should not be issuing these placards unless they truly are disabled and then you have the government failing. The DMV should be stronger in how they handle the program.”

In an email to NBC 7 Investigates, Jessica Gonzalez, Assistant Deputy Director of Public Affairs with the California DMV said, “At this time, the DMV can’t comment on the audit since we have not seen the final audit and it has not been released publicly. The DMV takes crimes relating to disabled parking placards seriously and reviews every complaint it receives. The DMV Investigations Division attempts to conduct at least one proactive Disabled Person Parking Placard enforcement operation each month. Individual complaints are investigated as they are received. In the past three fiscal years, DMV investigators conducted 270 enforcement operations throughout the state and issued 2,019 misdemeanor citations for disabled parking placard abuse.”

In October 2015, the San Diego City Council approved a new law increasing the penalty for an able-bodied driver who uses a disability placard issued to someone else. The new fine is $740, up from $452.50. The council also approved another ordinance cracking down on disability placard abuse.

That new law classified placard abuse as a parking violation, instead of a criminal misdemeanor. Doing so will allow parking enforcement officers, not just police, to issue citations for placard misuse.

To read more about those changes, click here.