‘Too bad. Pay your fine’: Judge rejects man’s fight over incorrect traffic ticket
Ticketed driver files an appeal but never receives his hearing notice. Court officials say, ‘Too bad. Pay your fine.’
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Eli Zandman was confident he had parked his car legally in West Midtown. He was on Brady Avenue near the intersection of Howell Mill Road.
There’s enough room for three cars, but when Zandman returned to his car, he was greeted with a $75 citation. ATLPlus, the private company the city of Atlanta uses to write tickets, determined Zandman was in a no-parking zone.
But was he?
“To me, the signage as it sits seems to apply to the area in front and not to the (parking space) behind,” he said.
Zandman is talking about a lone “No Parking” sign more than 50 feet away. The sign doesn’t have the pointing red arrow that many other no-parking signs have. It is located in front of a striped no-parking area.
Zandman decided the ticket was worth the fight. He appealed on the ATLPlus website and waited for his court date notification. But he never got it. When Zandman missed his court date, he went to the courthouse and requested a copy of the notice. That’s when he discovered the notice went to the wrong address. Instead of apartment number 33, the notice was mailed to apartment number three.
Zandman tried speaking with courthouse staff, ATLPlus staff and the solicitor’s office but said the only option they gave him was to pay the fine, which had doubled to $150.
When Zandman asked Atlanta News First consumer investigator Better Call Harry for help, Harry decided he’d better call a lawyer.
Larry Kohn is a defense attorney who said you don’t need a lawyer to reopen a parking ticket. He demonstrated how to write a motion. Zandman submitted a motion, which was approved by the court.
On his hearing date, Zandman reported to his assigned courtroom, but found his case had been reassigned to a nearly empty courtroom. Chief Judge Christopher Portis heard the motion to re-open the ticket. Court Administrator Rashida Davis, who was aware of Atlanta News First’s investigation, was also present.
Only seconds into Zandman’s presentation, Portis asked why he should reopen the case. Zandman tried to explain, but not before the judge interrupted again. “Tell me why I should reopen the case first.”
Zandman made his argument, but Portis was prepared for the hearing. He referred to an outstanding ticket issued to Zandman two years ago that also had the wrong address.
“How do I reconcile the fact that you have a case from last year and it doesn’t have a number at all?” Portis asked.
Using the discrepancy from the prior ticket, Portis suggested Zandman made the error, even though Davis said that all mailing addresses are provided by ATLPlus, which gets the information from the car’s registration.
“I’m going to deny your motion to reopen,” Portis said. The hearing ended with a bailiff escorting Zandman and the Atlanta News First crew to the elevator.
Zandman paid the fine but said, “Honestly, it just feels like the decision was made before we got in there.”
Days later, Better Call Harry emailed Mayor Andre Dickens’ media liaison to provide an update on the story and request clarification on the signage.
A Google Maps Street View image of the no-parking sign also told a different story. The image, taken three months before Zandman received his ticket, showed the same no-parking sign on the same utility pole. But it also showed three additional signs that have since been inexplicably removed.
The first missing sign shows a red arrow pointing away from the parking spaces toward the intersection. Below the red arrow were two green signs indicating parking was legal, evidence showing Zandman had parked legally after all.
Better Call Harry emailed the new information to the court administrator. At the time of this article publishing, she had not responded.
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