Dispute over downtown parking tickets reaches Utah Supreme Court

Posted at 9:59 PM, Apr 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-23 23:59:00-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- For years Salt Lake City has been plagued with problems over their downtown parking kiosks, but now the problem could finally get solved.

The Utah Supreme Court is considering arguments over whether or not Salt Lake City violated driver's due process rights and collected millions of dollars in unjust parking citations since 2012.

That’s when Salt Lake City switched from curbside meters to electronic pay stations.

Attorney Shane Johnson argued Wednesday before the justices that the city didn't have the authority to collect money because its parking ordinance wasn't updated to cover the new kiosks.

“Salt Lake City enforced an outdated ordinance that it knew to be obsolete and inapplicable to the new pay station system,” Johnson said.

Johnson represents three people who got tickets before the city changed the ordinance. They are seeking refunds of parking fees and parking fines they've paid, as well as money you've possibly been fined since the pay stations were installed.

“Everybody enjoys parking,” Johnson said. “Everybody pays for the privilege of parking by virtue of paying their taxes. In this circumstance, whether they received a benefit or not, to park on the street--which is free everywhere it's not: They didn’t pay out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Justice Thomas Lee of the Utah Supreme Court pointed out the price stems from demand.

“The point of charging for parking in a downtown area is spaces are sparse, right? The reason why people charge to park is not only that they can, that they can get away with it, but that it solves the 'tragedy of the commons problem,'" Lee said.

Margaret Plane, an attorney for Salt Lake City, argued there was no violation of due process.

“They all received parking tickets that said 'hearings' in all caps, they told you an address of where to go, days of the week, times of the day, they gave you a phone number and an email address,” she argued. “Two of the plaintiffs went to avail themselves of that information that gave them a hearing. The deprivation in this case is minimal."

Salt Lake City has made a number of changes to its parking system in recent years. The Utah Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling within a year.