Retired law professor challenges disability parking violation

Leo Raskind was fined for using his wife's disability parking pass, but believes the punishment was excessive.

Justin Horwath

A Law School professor emeritus and his wife allege a University police officer misinterpreted the “spirit of the law” after the officer issued a fine because the professor, 88, parked in a disability parking zone using his wife’s permit Tuesday.

Additionally, the professor, Leo Raskind, and his wife, Molly, said the officer was excessive in punishment when he took away the permit since it wasn’t under Leo Raskind’s name.

Now his wife can’t drive the car until she applies for a new permit.

Meanwhile, the University police said the officer who wrote the ticket was upholding a law that is violated at least numerous times on campus per year.

“I’m sure you can find some language that says it’s legal to compensate permits, but he’s a human being and he has some discretion,” the professor said. “I have some expectation to privacy to the car. He penalized me financially and he penalized my wife for not being able to drive the car effectively.”

Both Raskind and his wife said they struggle with mobility, and recognized using the permit for both persons violated the law.

Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said the issue of disability permit misuse is both “huge” and “serious,” because it takes spots away from those who truly need them.

“Not only are they doing it illegally, they’re actually trying to fool enforcement,” he said of misusing parking permits, which can run the gamut – from using dead people’s permits to those of relatives, like in Raskind’s case. “They should be charged to the full extent of the law.”

The law in question has been around since 1965 in Minnesota – long before a federal law on the issue was enacted.

In Minnesota, a person misusing a disability permit can be fined up to $500.

A $200 fine is issued against anyone caught parking in a handicapped zone without a permit.

Margot Cross, an accessibility specialist at the Minnesota State Council on Disability, said acquiring a disability parking permit in Minnesota is typically a smooth process, which includes getting certification from a medical specialist.

“The bottom line, what disability parking is trying to achieve, is somebody with a certain mobility impairment can get to their destination,” she said. “It’s all about access.”

She said the University Police Department has “one of the best” disability parking enforcement officers she’s encountered.

Officer David St. Cyr, the main parking-enforcement officer, works as a detective of sorts, she said. Other officers are also responsible for enforcing parking violations.

“He does a lot of investigation,” Johnson said. “His reports are a couple of pages long.”

The University Police Department writes about 100 parking tickets per year to people illegally parked in one of the 200-plus contracted and non-contracted disability spaces on campus.

At $500 per ticket for misusing the permit, that’s about $50,000 annually in fine money.