By Brandon Gutierrez—
Handicap placards are issued to disabled people or others who need help being mobile to give them parking spaces close to buildings and ramps. This semester, Tarleton police caught dozens of students using handicap placards that don’t belong to them, which is a violation of state law.
“Over a three-month period, I found approximately 30 students in violation,” said Sgt. Mark Hukel of the Tarleton Police Department. “Almost all of the violations have occurred in residential housing parking lots.”
The department began investigating misuse of handicap placards after a parent called in December 2018, complaining about the misuse of a handicap placard by a student on campus.
“The parent stated his child had told him a student in their residential housing was overheard telling others that she was using her grandmother’s handicap placard to park in handicap parking spaces on campus,” Hukel said. “I investigated that complaint and did find that the complaint was valid.”
Hukel said the student misusing the placard was issued a parking citation for the handicap parking violation. The handicap placard was confiscated and destroyed as required by the Texas Transportation code.
“The student also received a dean referral,” Hukel added.
This means the student will receive a notification for a meeting with the Office of Student Judicial Affairs to receive a hearing regarding the incident. Then follows a verdict on punishment for violation of student conduct.
The Texas Transportation Code 681.011 states that “a person commits an offense if the person lends a disabled parking placard issued to the person to a person who uses the placard in violation of this section.” The fine for the violation is $500.
“The person that was issued the handicap placard could be fined and lose handicap parking placard privileges if it is found they knowingly allowed the misuse,” Hukel said.
Not having nearby parking spaces was the primary motivation for some students illegally using handicap placards, Hukel said.
“Most, when found in violation, have indicated not being able to find a nearby parking space. A few have said they were given the placard by a relative for the sole purpose of letting them park near their residence,” Hukel said. “Most admitted to being aware they were not supposed to use the handicap placard for themselves.”
People who are mobility-impaired could be negatively affected by these actions taken by students, Hukel said.
“The persons misusing the handicap placards take parking spaces from students with legitimate handicap parking needs,” he explained.
If you witness or suspect someone illegally using a handicap placard, contact the Tarleton Police Department at 254-968-9002. After business hours, contact the control center at 254-968-9265 to request that an officer check on a possible violation.