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Vehicle Code 4461. Misuse of Handicap Placard Laws in California- IE-Criminal Defense

I. VC 4461: Misuse of Handicap Placard

Legal Definition: “(a) A person shall not lend a certificate of ownership, registration card, license plate, special plate, validation tab, or permit issued to him or her if the person desiring to borrow it would not be entitled to its use, and a person shall not knowingly permit its use by one not entitled to it.”

“(b) A person to whom a disabled person placard has been issued shall not lend the placard to another person, and a disabled person shall not knowingly permit the use for parking purposes of the placard or identification license plate issued pursuant to Section 5007 by one not entitled to it.”

“(c) Except for the purpose of transporting a disabled person as specified in subdivision (b), a person shall not display a disabled person placard that was not issued to him or her or that has been canceled or revoked.”

To be found guilty under VC 4461 the prosecution must prove:

  1. You either lend or allowed someone to use your own handicap placard;


  1. You were displaying another person’s handicap placard or a placard that has been expired or revoked;


  1. You parked in a spot for disabled persons and you were not disabled.

II. What does this mean?

You are exempt from being prosecuted for this section if you are transporting a disabled person with whom the placard was issued to or for the purposes of transporting a disabled person. If, for example, you are using a parent’s vehicle that has a placard, it does not give you the ability to park that vehicle in a handicap spot. If the police were to stop you, and determine that the placard is issued to another person, then you can be charged under this section as a misdemeanor. If any person who has a handicap placard, lends it to another person, that person can also be criminally liable under this code section.

It’s also a crime if the placard has expired. For example, a person gets surgery on their foot, and they are using crutches for six months, and their doctor gives them the placard to use for the next six months. If, after that time period passes, you continue to use the disabled placard, then you could be guilty of violating this section.

III. Penalties

A charge under VC 4461 is a wobble offense, meaning you can be charged under this section as a misdemeanor or as an infraction. If you are convicted of this charge as a misdemeanor you could be sentenced up to six months in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You could also be subjected to a fine of upwards of $250 to $1000 for a misdemeanor conviction. If you are charged under this section as an infraction, you could not be sentenced to jail for it, but you could still pay hefty fines of upwards of $1000 for a conviction. Whether you are charged under this section as a misdemeanor or an infraction violation, you can also be subjected to an additional $1500 fine for people who use another person’s placard to park in a handicap zone. This additional fine does not apply to people who allow others to use their placard. This is not a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, and it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290. You could also face a suspension or loss of your Professional License if convicted, and if you are not a legal resident, you would face Deportation in Immigration Court since the offense is deportable, in that it is a crime lying or deceit.

IV. Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Violation of Rights
  3. Insufficient Evidence

You can avoid being prosecuted under this section if, for example, you did not allow a person to misuse your handicap placard. For example, a person borrows your car, but unbeknownst to you, they use your car because of your handicap placard, and they park in a handicapped parking spot. In this example, you could not be found guilty because you did not know by simply allowing another person to borrow your vehicle, that they would park in a handicapped spot. Another example would be someone stealing your placard to park in a handicapped parking spot, without your knowledge. Lack of knowledge of this misuse would prove there is insufficient evidence that you allowed someone to use your handicap placard.

You also cannot be found guilty under this section if the reason for using the handicap placard was for the purposes of transporting a handicap person. An example could be that you are picking up a handicap person with their car and using their handicap placard. When you arrive to park, it is for the purposes of transporting a handicap person. Given that these types of parking spots are near the front, it would make sense that you would park closely in order to help escort that person into their vehicle. If you are assisting or transporting a disabled person using their handicap placard, then you cannot be found guilty of misusing it.

V. Call Today

Sometimes we do things by accident. We do things based on simple muscle memory. We borrow someone’s car, we park in the same spot, but we forget, that the person who is allowed to park in that spot is the same person who’s placard is displayed in that car, which here, was not you. You made a mistake. It can happen, but it should result in you facing criminal charges and a possible criminal record.  Our Ontario VC 4461 attorney has successfully defended hundreds of people charged with handicap placard misuse cases under VC 4461. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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