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‘Lesser’ law needs to be enforced

We commend the police officers and Sheriff’s deputies of Brookhaven and Lincoln County for the consistent job they perform in enforcing the law.

One law we believe should be enforced more, however, is fining drivers for parking illegally in spots marked specifically for the handicapped. 

We understand that with the persistent problems of theft, fraud, shoplifting, reckless and drunk driving, shootings and the like, that addressing handicapped parking spot abuse may be considered a “lesser” crime by some, brought about by a “lesser” law, perhaps. It is, nonetheless, still a crime.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, businesses must provide adequate parking for those individuals with handicaps. We are not aware of any area businesses that fail to meet this requirement. That’s not where the problem lies.

The problem lies in drivers who are irresponsible.

In order to park in a parking spot designated as “handicapped accessible” or “handicapped only,” a vehicle must have an official placard, decal or tag on display. While we understand that it would be easier on people who may be recovering from an injury, are elderly or are in advanced pregnancy to utilize spots near the entrance of a business, no one is allowed to legally park in one of these spaces without the aforementioned placard, decal or tag.

Mississippi legislation clearly states that it is illegal to do so.

“If you are caught parking illegally, the fine for a first or second offense is $200. If you are convicted more than twice, you are subject to license suspension of 90 days and additional fines. These penalties will not be waived or suspended,” the guidelines say.

The state’s Attorney General, Jim Hood, stressed that law enforcement is empowered to enforce these laws.

“I direct your attention to Section 27-19-56 of the Mississippi Code. It provides that all law enforcement officers are authorized to enforce this law on public and private property. Also, the owner of private property may tow away a vehicle that is parked on the owner’s private property in violation of this section at the vehicle owner’s expense,” Hood said.

In addition, the areas adjoining these parking spaces that are painted with yellow stripes are not — ever — additional parking spots. These areas are visually blocked off so that vehicles with wheel chair lifts or ramps will have plenty of room for these devices to be utilized.

These spaces were designated by federal law to benefit those who really need them. They are not there for the lazy, the person in a hurry or the person who borrowed a car with a placard but is not handicapped and has no handicapped passenger.

Take a trip to virtually any parking lot in the city to verify the misuse of these spaces. Walmart’s parking lot, for example, regularly has five vehicles parked in the spaces designated for two vehicles with proper handicapped registrations. They are parked at odd angles across yellow-striped areas and often have no placard or tag displayed.

We believe handing out several $200 fines via parking tickets may begin to curb some of this behavior, at least for repeat, habitual offenders.