Question: My adult child was driving a vehicle owned by my ex-spouse. My child was taking out other child to a store and parked in the handicapped spot because our other child is disabled. The handicapped tag had expired and the vehicle does not have handicapped plates. In our divorce decree, I am the person who pays for auto insurance for our two grown children, and I would be the parent responsible for maintaining our son’s handicapped vehicle tag. Our grown child received a ticket for parking in a handicapped space. My ex-spouse told me that I was going to get arrested and thrown in jail if I didn’t pay the ticket. Is that true? Whose traffic ticket is it anyway?
Answer: The driver of any vehicle in Texas is charged with “all” laws relating to driving, even if the vehicle they are driving is not their own, and regardless of the driver’s age. Liability does not pass to parents of grown children; however, it does to children who are minors. In the instance of a grown child (over the age of 18) receiving a traffic citation, the ticket belongs to the adult child, and all of its consequences.
The Texas Transportation Code, Title 7 Vehicles and Traffic, Subtitle H Parking, Towing, and Storage of Vehicles, Chapter 681 Privileged Parking, covers all laws relating to the issues, use and enforcement of disability placards and license plates. Violation of those laws may result in a fine and the requirement that the violator perform community service (for multiple violations). Laws in Texas do not provide that a violator, or their parent, serve jail time.
Further, Chapter 543 of Title 7 are the laws pertaining to the arrest and prosecution of violators. Peace officers may arrest individuals who violate traffic laws, and if so, must take them immediately before a magistrate. More commonly, peace officers issue a citation with a date to appear in court and to show cause why the violation should not be prosecuted. In certain instances, the violation may be dismissed at that court appearance. Examples include driving without verification of insurance when proof of insurance does actually exist, driving without a license plate when the license plate does actually exist and parking without a disability placard when one does actually exist. Driving with an expired placard may result in paying a small fine and renewing the placard, but the violator would never go to jail.
In the scenario presented, even though the sibling that drives the disabled child is not the person responsible for maintaining the placard, that person is the right person to receive a citation for the violation because any person undertaking operating a motor vehicle within the State of Texas is charged with obeying all laws related to the use and operation of the motor vehicle they are driving, as though it were their own.
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