A 22-year-old man was given several opportunities to pay his $2 parking tickets, but instead he opted to spend 15 days in jail.
Patrick LaRocca failed to put quarters in the meter in front of his house in Coraopolis and received several parking tickets as a result. He could have also bought a $20 parking permit each month to avoid the meters or simply paid the tickets when he received them.
“I take personal responsibility, to an extent. I understand I should be punished for my crime but I see that as extreme punishment,” LaRocca said according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
LaRocca, who lives with his parents, bought his own car, and that’s when the tickets started to roll in. There were four vehicles put space for only one in a garage, so LaRocca parked on the street.
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Finally, LaRocca accumulated 10 unpaid parking tickets and received a notice April 15 from District Judge Mary Murray for a summary trial on June 6.
LaRocca pleaded not guilty April 24, paid $150 in collateral and filled out a financial statement in which he noted that he earned $120 per week on the Gateway Clipper as a steward.
He forgot to attend the hearing and was found guilty on all the tickets. A warrant was put out and the tickets were now between $111 to $144 each.
“The plan was to try and get the money together,” LaRocca said.“The constable asked me repeatedly if I had the money to pay the fines or if I had anyone I could call to borrow the money.”
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Judge Murray handed LaRocca a sticky note that said, “15 days in jail or $1,346.”
“I said, ‘Well, I don’t have that kind of money. I guess I’ll take jail.’”
La Rocca said the judge never offered to set up a payment plan. He has no previous criminal record.
Now, Sara Rose, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, says his due process rights may have been violated. But the court says Judge Murray did follow all the steps.
“I don’t know what, exactly, I was waiting for,” he said. “My whole family feels it’s ridiculous to have to pay to parking front of our own house.”
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette