In the city and county of Los Angeles, penalties for illegally parking in a handicapped spot include fines of $1,000 and 30 hours of community service with the disabled.
On surveillance video, two young men who are not handicapped are seen parking in a handicapped spot. One of the men, Ivan Hernandez, borrowed his handicapped grandmother's car and parked in a handicap spot. He was cited and the placard was confiscated.
"I wasn't thinking correctly," said Hernandez when confronted. "I'm sorry for what I did."
Some people the police approach are irate. One man would only give his first name, "Jess," even after he was cited. He said he was at the mall to pick up his mother. Investigators gave him a chance to find her, but he didn't even try. The law says the handicapped person must be with the placard.
"So what's the sense of a disabled placard if I cannot park here and pick up my mom?" asked Jess. "She's still in the mall."
Just seconds later, when asked again where his mother was, Jess said his brother had picked up their mother already.
DMV Area Commander Vito Scattaglia says the recent poor weather creates an additional hardship for people with disabilities.
"If they can't find a place to park, because of the fraud that takes place with the use of some of these placards, they might be on an upper level and have to go down several flights of stairs," said Scattaglia.
One of the investigators helped a handicapped woman in a wheelchair after her daughter could not find a handicap spot and parked temporarily in an off-limits spot. Just a few cars away, another car was parked illegally, with the driver using someone else's handicap placard.
The 20-year-old female did everything she could to hide her face from ABC7 cameras as she was cited. She said she was there to pick up her grandmother but didn't know where she was.
Another woman cited has a handicap placard for her son when she drops him off at school. She admitted she drives to the mall and uses the placard to park in a handicap spot.
Tony Chamilian gave up looking for a handicap spot, even though it's painful for him to walk long distances. In the mall, at least he can rest.
"Every handicap parking [space] is full. Maybe somebody doesn't have these placards, I don't know," said Chamilian.
Richard Alvarez says he borrowed his mother's car while his was being repaired. She had a placard and he used it to park in a handicap spot. Alvarez admits he never thought about whether someone with a real handicap might need the spot.
Investigators point out that people may not look handicapped but still have serious disabilities.
The DMV issued 16 misdemeanor citations during the six-hour operation. At this point, they are not convictions. However, the placards were confiscated. That means the truly disabled whose placards were used illegally must reapply, potentially adding more trouble to their lives.
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