Nearly 10 years of downtown Memphis parking tickets might be invalid

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nearly a decade’s worth of parking tickets issued in downtown Memphis might be invalid after a court’s ruling.

The tickets weren’t given by police officers. They were written by employees with the Downtown Memphis Commission.

You’ve probably seen the employees. They dress similar to police officers and often patrol the downtown area on bicycles.

John Pritchard got a $50 parking ticket from a DMC worker in 2016 while his car was parked in the alley next to Bardog Tavern. He took the citation to city court with a specific plan.

“I think I could have gotten this dismissed, but I wanted to be found guilty on this in order to have the basis to appeal and get a court of record to rule,” Pritchard said.

His plan worked. A circuit court ruled in his favor, and so did the court of appeals when the city challenged. That ruling came down last week.

The DMC started issuing tickets in 2010. Officials claim a city ordinance grants the commission that power, but after reviewing it, two different judges ruled there’s no specific wording in the ordinance that allows DMC workers to give tickets.

“This is not about $50,” Pritchard said. “It’s about a whole lot of people who lost a whole lot of money basically illegally.

“If you’re going to hand somebody a ticket book, and you’re going to take somebody’s money or take somebody’s car or take somebody’s time or maybe somebody’s job because they didn’t have their car to get to work, if you’re going to take all that stuff, make sure you give these people the authority to do it,” Pritchard’s attorney Murray Wells said.

Now, Wells is considering a class action lawsuit to compensate other people who got tickets.

“A refund,” Wells said. “Maybe a reduction in your tax bill or something to offset it.”

The city said DMC workers were writing those tickets so that police officers could be freed up to do other things. Either way, the commission stopped the practice last year.

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