Can I Get in Trouble for Feeding Other People’s Parking Meters in Florida?
Clowns, elephants, meters, oh my! Learn more about Florida's interesting parking meter laws in this new article written by our law clerk, Sarah!
What? This is a Real Law?Strangely, the idea of someone going around feeding change into almost-expired parking meters has created quite a legal stir throughout the United States. In 1995, a man dressed as a clown named Twister made headlines when he was fined $13 for unauthorized meter feeding in Santa Cruz, California, an ordinance he called an “Anti-Good Samaritan Law.” His supporters donated $332 so he could keep feeding meters, and a lawyer stepped forward to represent him “pro-bozo”. Ultimately, the city council voted to repeal the law (as they donned red clown noses) and dropped the citation.
These widespread city ordinances are not rare and can lead to arrests as well as hefty fines. In 2010, Ben Bond was arrested for Obstruction of Governmental Administration after a run in with one of the parking enforcement officers after doing, what he considered, an act of kindness by putting coins in the expired parking meters of strangers. Michael Russnow explored the issue of being ticketed for feeding a parking meter after the time limit and talked with the Los Angeles parking authority who stated that meter time limit zones are just that, and anyone can be fined for going beyond the time limit of a meter. Interestingly, moving your car to the next meter will still land you in hot water if you’re caught, as the time limits associated with meters are often for the same street, and you have to move your car to an entirely different block, or potentially face fines. Although it would be unusual to be ticketed for this as most parking officials are primarily concerned with expired meters, it is still something that most people don’t know about. Russnow noted that in San Francisco, the downtown area is marked with signs clearly stating that it was not permissible to feed a meter after the maximum time permitted, however, Los Angeles did not have such warnings.
Can I Get in Trouble for This in Tallahassee?Section 20-103 of Chapter 20 in Tallahassee’s Code of Ordinances regulates parking time limits, stating that parking or standing a vehicle in a designated parking meter space within a parking meter zone shall be lawful for no more than the maximum time indicated on the parking meter. Although there is no ordinance stating a non-parker is prohibited from feeding the meter, anyone found going over the maximum parking time allotted can face fines. This rule is mimicked in many city ordinances throughout cities in Florida.
Florida’s History with Strange Parking Meter LawsInterestingly, one of Florida’s strangest historic laws laws has to do with parking meters, specifically, “if an elephant is left at a parking meter, the owner is not exempt from the fees and will be ticketed if the meter has expired.” Although this law cannot be found within the Florida Statutes today, it is presumed it originated as a local ordinance in Sarasota that was the home of the Ringling Brothers Circus operations. In 1917, John Ringling purchased St. Armand’s Key and used elephants to build the first causeway in St. Armand’s Circle, likely prompting the law.
This article was written by Sarah Kamide