We’ve all known it – that sinking feeling as you head back to your car, having realised too late that you overran your parking, and there it is, that yellow piece of paper on your windscreen. It's a parking ticket – or to give it its official name, a penalty charge notice. And here's our guide to everything you ever wanted to know about it, including whether you have to pay it.
A penalty charge notice is a fine given for parking infractions, and some other civil (not criminal) traffic offences.
You can get one for:
District or borough councils, as well as Transport for London, can issue these fines, either through a notice on your car or, if you’re caught on camera, through the post.
The document will state what you're believed to have done, at what time, on what date and in what car, and the amount of the fine. If any of these details are wrong, it can invalidate the fine.
You don't get points on your licence or a criminal record.
For some more significant parking transgressions, like parking on red routes or zig-zag lines, and offences like speeding, you'll receive a fine from the police. This is called a fixed penalty notice, and it's a criminal matter rather than a civil one.
Fixed penalty notices can involve points on your licence as well as a fine. If you want to challenge a fixed penalty notice, you will have to go to court.
A parking charge notice is also something different – it's a parking ticket from a private company which administers a privately-owned car park, like some supermarket and shopping centre car parks. It isn't the case that you can just ignore such a fine, but you should be aware of your rights – these companies don't have the right to clamp your car, and if they demand payment on the spot, the RAC advises calling the police.
A parking fine can be up to £70 outside London, and up to £130 in London. You usually have 28 days to pay, and the fine is usually halved if you pay within 14 days.
If you don’t pay within 28 days, you get fined half as much again on top. You get another 14 days to pay this increased fine, after which you get a court order – the fine is now a civil debt – and possibly a visit from the bailiffs. You can, however, appeal a parking fine if you think it's wrong.