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Can I Get a Traffic Ticket in a Parking Lot?

A driver is still subject to moving violation laws while in a public or private parking lot.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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Some people believe that you can’t get a traffic ticket in a parking lot, especially if that parking lot is privately owned, such as by a mall or a church. Each state determines their own laws on when moving violations can be cited, but there are certain hard and fast rules that apply to both publicly owned and privately owned parking lots. First, you can certainly get parking tickets, though some people class these as separate from traffic tickets, and you can even have your car towed if you park illegally or in spaces designated for the disabled when you don’t have the appropriate tags.

Second, you can almost always get a traffic ticket in a parking lot, and be cited for other crimes if you are driving intoxicated. You may also receive a traffic ticket in a parking lot if you hit another car and try to escape. This is hit and run, or at minimum “leaving the scene of an accident,” and if you cause an accident in a parking lot and leave the scene, you have violated that law.

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Usually, most highway patrol officers won’t give you a traffic ticket in a parking lot for failing to signal when you turn, or ignoring a stop sign. Officers don’t tend to sit in parking lots waiting for people to make moving violations. On the other hand, parking lots represent pretty intense driving, where you should drive slowly and safely to avoid hitting other people and cars, and you should be sure to obey stop signs, signal your intent to turn and the like, so that you don’t get hit by someone else. Even if your state does not have specific laws that apply to driving in private lots, it makes good sense to protect yourself and others by obeying the laws set by the private lot.

Some states clearly spell out safe driving practices on private parking lots. Virginia for example has state code that pertains to not allowing “reckless driving” on any “driveway, or premises of a church, school, recreational facility or business property open to the public” and, “on the premises of any industrial establishment providing parking space for customers, patrons, or employees.” This definition makes it pretty clear that driving that endangers others will mean you’ll earn a traffic ticket in a parking lot if your driving is noticed.

Not all parking lots are private property. If you commit any kind of moving violation in a publicly owned parking lot, such as a public school or in front of building belonging to the state, these are likely to be treated as moving violations that occur on public roads. In any case, whether laws exist in your state or not that define safe driving in parking lots, keeping the safety of yourself and others at mind when you drive in any parking lot is good sense. Observing the rules of the road, no matter where you drive, will help you avoid the possibility of getting a traffic ticket in a parking lot or anywhere else.

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Discuss this Article

anon287703
Post 17

It's simple. If the citation issued refers to any statute that does not include the words private property or parking lot, then it does not apply.

anon285590
Post 16

If I put a stop sign on my driveway and someone disobeys it, or let's say I'm driving like a mad fool on my own property. Does that mean I can be ticketed by the police?

amypollick
Post 15

@chgokamper: If it was a Tennessee licensed vehicle, then you need to report it to the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. If it was a Mississippi licensed vehicle, then report it to the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Mississippi State Troopers.

Since you have the license number, it should be no problem for the DOT or Department of Motor Vehicles to track down exactly which agency licensed the vehicle, and to find out whether it was a city, county or state vehicle.

If it's a state vehicle, then the DOT is responsible for it. If it's a city vehicle, you need to talk with the police officer in charge of the traffic division in the city of registry. If it's a county vehicle used in law enforcement, you need to call the Sheriff's Department, and if it is a county work vehicle, call the county commission chairman for the county of registry.

Take my advice on something, though, if you want results: do not imply the driver was trying to block you getting the plate number or anything of the kind. Believe me, it will just alienate whoever you're speaking with. Also, don't tell them what a careful driver you are. Just say you observed an official vehicle operating in an unsafe manner. If you'll keep your opinions to yourself and just stick with the facts (you can say your young son was in the vehicle with you and you were concerned for his safety), you stand a much better chance of having someone listen to you.

Take it from someone who knows.

chgokamper
Post 14

I do believe in following the rules of the roads; it makes for safe driving. I always use my turn signals, even in left or right turn only lanes and highway exit lanes. I obey the speed limits. I do this for safety and to save myself money. It costs way too much money to be caught speeding and for moving violations like not using turn signals.

After moving to the Memphis metro area, on the Southaven side of the boarder, I was shocked at how many drivers do not use their turn signals on the highways, city streets and in parking lots. Besides a cracked windshield, it's the most frequent violation and safety mistake I see other drivers make. I see cracked windshields so much, I think it be be the state emblem of both Mississippi and Tennessee. Even the police do not use turn signals here in Desoto County.

In the early afternoon a couple of days ago, I happened to be behind an "official" government vehicle with government "G" plates driving east on Goodman Road going towards Olive Branch and this black Chevy SUV was speeding over the posted speed limit and switching lanes for over five miles and never used his turn signals. I tried to report the vehicle to Olive Branch officials, but no one could tell me who to report violations committed by official government vehicles. Remember, this was not an unmarked police car/SUV, but an official automobile driven by government employees wearing shirts and ties.

I do not know if the people in the vehicle were local, county or state employees. They did see me trying to take a cell phone picture of their license plate and write down the plate number and they proceeded to slow down and possibly try to block my vehicle. I am not sure what they intended to do, so I called the non-emergency line for the Olive Branch police department to report it and someone there transferred me to the courthouse clerk – not sure why -- she said she did not know how to report such a vehicle.

I feel very strongly about this, because I try to teach my son that following the rules of the road will ensure his safety, and then we witness police and government cars wantonly committing violations all around us, without the fear of punishment. I should say I have noticed these violations happening in the course of regular business; these vehicles were not in the middle of performing emergency duties. I ask you, who watches the watchers? I think the media should investigate.

anon242735
Post 13

I got a parking ticket in Freehold Mall too--it was the day after Christmas. I couldn't believe it when I got back to my car and saw the overpaid cop writing tickets to people who were parked against the curb of an empty lot where there were no "No Parking" signs, nor any yellow curbs.

I agree with anon166798 that Freehold Township needs to save their taxpayers some money and cut their police force if they can afford to put cops on patrol doing ridiculous tasks like ticketing the very people who are spending money in their own town.

anon240360
Post 12

I just have to point out: The note about public schools having public parking lots isn't exclusively true. In Texas, public schools are operated by publicly-funded privately-owned organizations. The schools and their parking lots are all private property, and officers are not allowed to write tickets for "traffic offenses" that take place on them.

In one case, an officer claimed I was driving recklessly in a high school parking lot. On top of this, I did not have proof of insurance or vehicle registration. However, I was not ticketed, because the officer never witnessed me driving on a public street, and was not allowed to issue a citation otherwise.

anon167355
Post 11

Can you back up in a bank lane if nobody is behind you? What can happen if you do that and another car has the corner of his bumper in your lane and you hit it? Like I asked, can you back up in a bank lane?

anon166798
Post 10

I came back to my car after shopping at the Freehold mall in New Jersey and a ticket was on my car. To my surprise, the ticket was for a non registered vehicle.

I understand that it is a violation even if this was an oversight on my part, however i am in disbelief that in times of cutting back manpower and budgets, the Freehold police have the manpower to place an officer making over $90,000 in the mall to run random plates on parked cars. Not sure if this is legal, but maybe this police department should cut the size of their staff if they can waste an officer doing meter maid work.

anon143497
Post 9

I got a ticket last night for driving circles in a parking lot. My turns took half of a parking lot and the parking lot was empty. The officer told me I was doing donuts. All i managed to do was a circle and a half and he was speeding up the side road into the parking lot like I was destroying other cars. How does this warrant a ticket at all?

anon110993
Post 8

I was idling in a Food Lion parking lot in North Carolina and the police came up behind me and turned on their lights and stated someone called them and told them I was reckless driving on the highway. Did they have the right to pull me over since they did not see me do anything wrong whatsoever? Thanks, g

anon91706
Post 6

A cart was rolling through the parking lot and i didn't see it coming and hit it. It ended up bouncing off my car and into another but didn't leave any marks. The parking lot patrol followed me a little bit and then turned around so I'm pretty sure he got my license plate number. What should i do because it's not my fault the cart was rolling through the parking lot.

anon60691
Post 5

These stupid sites are so one sided, they don't tell you that you don't have to do a thing if an accident takes place in what police consider "private parking".

I had a lady open her door, damage my car, and refused to even discuss the issue. I called the cops on her, she went into the store, "leaving the scene of an accident", and I was told by the officer who showed up the they can't do anything about it, it was a civil issue! Bottom line, you can count on the law to do nothing for you but screw you!

anon56278
Post 4

I was in a Texaco parking lot and I went in three circles in the parking lot at 5-10 miles an hour then and the officer gave me a reckless driving ticket. Can he really do that to me? I was not even driving recklessly! Please help me out if you can give me an answer.

anon52119
Post 3

My motorcycle was hit and knocked over in a private parking lot, when I was not around. I am now charged with driving with a suspended license and without insurance. Can I fight this?

anon33772
Post 2

can you get a ticket for driving across empty rows in a parking lot? my husband says no but i say it's dangerous and should be illegal. instead of leaving out the row he is in, he will cut across rows (without cars) to get to the main road in and out of the parking lot. thanks!

hgpep
Post 1

I received a ticket for pulling out of my credit union into an alley...here is what happened,I stopped at an alley intersection in the marked right turn lane in the bank parking lot..no stop sign...the exit has arrows on the ground marking the left turn lane and rt turn lane. I got into the marked right turn lane and came to a full stop. I looked and turned rt with out using my turn signal, turned rt and drove one half block to the next marked intersection with a stop sign..I stopped and signaled a left turn...I was pulled over moments later by a local policeman who wrote me a ticket for not using my turn signal when i left the bank parking lot into the alley.

This just doesn't seem like a legal issue. The fine is around 90.00 dollars. I'm on a fixed income and want to fight this ticket. Can I win? and will it cost me more to fight it in court rather then pay the ticket? please help...New Philadelphia, Ohio

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