PORTLAND, Maine — Frustrated by what they believe is regular and ongoing misuse of old and expired handicapped passes, Portland’s parking enforcement officials want to see the city adopt a heavy fine for doctoring the placards.

The City Council on Monday night gave first reading to an ordinance change that would levy minimum fines of $200 for handicapped placards “tampered with or improperly altered in any way.”

“According to the Parking Division, a fairly common problem they observe is the abuse of disabled hanging placards by tampering,” Trish McAllister, the city’s neighborhood prosecutor, wrote in a memo to the council. “Basically, what people are doing is changing the expiration date to make it look like an expired tag is still good. They even report cases where people take a dead relative’s hang tag and use it for years. The fact that there is no ordinance violation to enforce is a source of frustration to the parking officers, who can clearly see the deception, and also the public at large, especially those who rightfully use disabled tags.”

McAllister, a city attorney who works closely with the police department, told the council a police officer could issue a summons to an individual for doctoring a handicapped tag under state law. But she said representatives of the parking division are more likely to discover the violations, and a police officer would need to wait for the driver to return in order to issue the citation.

With the ordinance change, parking enforcement officials would be able to leave tickets on the offending vehicles’ windshields like they do for other parking offenses.

A second reading of the ordinance and an approval vote from the City Council will be necessary before the proposed rule is implemented.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.