Holiday shoppers warned to think twice before snagging handicapped-accessible parking

You might be in a hurry this holiday season but if you park in a handicapped parking spot and you're not disabled you could face a stiff fine.

"Unfortunately this is the time of year where people abuse it the most. Black Friday they want to go in get those sales rush in." Travis County Constable of Precinct 5 Carlos Lopez says even if parking is hard to come by on Black Friday and during the Christmas shopping season, that's no reason to park in a handicapped space.

"It's easy for someone to just park in a place that's close to the front door they don't realize that there's people with disabilities that are unable to go in. Many people with disabilities drive around trying to find parking and as a result they end up going home," said Lopez. 

He and a team of peace officers are cracking down on drivers who violate the law.  "We're doing city-wide enforcement all over Austin Texas, we're going to the malls shopping centers grocery stores anywhere where there's a potential for a violation," said Lopez.  

Friday afternoon they made their way through a Walmart parking lot located near South Slaughter checking vehicles parked in the blue. "Truly it's a matter of convince for these people instead of walking I don't know a block away where ever they choose to pick the first one that's there and really there's no excuse for doing it," said Lopez. 

Those caught parked illegally in a handicap parking spot face hefty fines, starting at $500.

"Last fiscal year we issued over 2,600 citations alone just my office alone and sized 100 placards that were being mis-used by other people," said Lopez. 

Roselee Stewart had her papers in order and says initiatives like this are needed this time of year. 

"Because I have a severe back problem and sometimes I can't park in handicap spot my own self and I have to drive around and park where ever I can and it's not right. If I have a handicap spot than I can park more close to the store. It does anger people like me," said Stewart.

Lopez says even if you have a disabled parking placard in your car, but it was issued to someone who isn't along for the ride, you run the risk of being busted. He says the purpose is not to issue fines but to instead make sure the spaces are there for those who really need them. 

"They're people in wheel chairs, people who have mobility issues such as our grandma's our parents. Or even some of us," said Lopez. So while you find the best Black Friday savings inside, Lopez says you can rest assure outside you may not get the best deal if you violate the law. 

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