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If You Keep an Old Parking Ticket on Your Windshield, Can You Park Anywhere?

And is deceiving a parking officer a crime? Asking for, um, a friend

Parking tickets, at times, can feel inescapable. You study the signs for hours, confident about leaving your car while grabbing a quick coffee and still end up acquiring a pricey slip of paper that demands you eat unboiled noodles for the remainder of the month to avoid going broke.

There has long been something of a gimmick floating around by word-of-mouth that promises to make you and your vehicle virtually immune from the observant eyes of parking enforcement, though. The thought is, if you leave an old, paid parking ticket on your windshield whenever you park in a precarious spot, parking enforcement will skip over you, believing that you were already ticketed for the infraction by another officer.

One dude even went viral for sharing this tip online a couple of years ago, claiming that it saved him from tons of tickets while parking on campus at the University of Houston, and a bunch of people corroborated his suggestion, saying it worked for them, too. The same advice also pops up on Reddit periodically. But while I can see this working on some carefree student parking officer, working on campus so they can at least attempt to pay off some of their debt before they die of old age, would it really work on a career officer, one that could have a quota to meet? 

Sadly, the answer is a big, big nope. 

“Traffic officers are trained to thoroughly check the vehicle prior to issuing a citation to determine that it is in violation or if it has previously been cited,” explains Colin Sweeney, of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “If the vehicle was previously cited and remains at the same location for the same violation on the same date, the officer shall not issue another citation. If the vehicle remains at the same location when it becomes a more restrictive zone, [another] citation shall be issued for the more restrictive violation — e.g., the vehicle was cited for a meter or time limit and cited later in the day at the onset of an anti-gridlock no stopping rule, which takes effect during rush hour.” He adds, “Traffic officers aren’t so easily hoodwinked.” 

Damn, it blows when people do their jobs well.

The good news is, you won’t get in any extra trouble for giving this a shot. “They will only be cited for the applicable violation,” Sweeney says, meaning you’d just be given another ticket on top of whatever old ticket you put on your windshield. And again, you can get tickets on top of tickets on top of tickets.

The one form of punishment you might receive for attempting to mislead a parking officer, though, is them doing it right back to you. As a retired officer on Quora warns, “It is highly unusual to have two people patrolling the same area, so if a ticket is on a car in an area I patrolled, I would take a look. A ticket already on a car was essentially a flashing light that you think parking enforcement is stupid. I would always look at the existing ticket, and it was always a ploy to fool me. I would place another [ticket] into their envelope and put it exactly as it was. My goal was to make the car owner think their little scheme worked until the very last second when they actually looked inside the envelope.”

Unboiled noodles it is, then.