Or, if you prefer, how I got a parking ticket reduced from $35 to $14:
So, about a week and a half ago I got a ticket for parking my car within 30 feet of a stop sign. I was, in fact, parked about 2 feet from the stop sign. I was, of course, unaware of the law, which is not an excuse for breaking it. In my neighborhood, some stop signs are marked no parking within 30 feet but others are not. I figured the lack of posted signs might be something that I could use; due process and all.
Being a law student, I have access to various electronic legal resources so I set about exploring Minnesota case law to see if I might have a valid argument. Eventually, I found a case with a fact pattern much like mine; some guy was parked in one spot for more than two hours in violation of a Minneapolis ordinance even though there was no marking. Unfortunately, for me, the guy in the case I found lost. Then, at the end of the opinion, I found this:
Finally, it is defendant's position that the enforcement of the ordinance is unconstitutional because of the failure to post signs which indicate the time limitations in particular zones, more especially the restrictions governing the area in which he was parked. It appears that in some parts of the city the 2-hour limitation is posted and in others it is not, a situation which, defendant asserts, unconstitutionally misleads the public. In the absence of an express provision in a statute or ordinance requiring posting, we are of the opinion that the necessity for such notice is a matter of administrative or legislative judgment with which the courts will not concern themselves, notwithstanding the public's acknowledged habit of relying on signs of this character in actual practice.
State v. Perry, 269 Minn 204, 208 (1964).
In there, near the end, there was one glimmer of hope, specifically "notwithstanding...", which said to me that if I could show a public habit of parking close to unmarked stop signs but not others, I might have a chance. I figured it at a really long shot but one that would be fun to try arguing in court. Over the course of the following week, I noticed quite a few cars parked just as would help my case.
Finally, today, I got around to going down to the Hennepin County Government Center to argue with a hearing officer. After an interminable wait time, as is customary with government offices but could be avoided by making an appointment, I got to speak with a hearing officer.
Hearing Officer: The ticket says you were two feet from the stop sign.
HO: You're not disputing that?
Me: Well, see, in State v. Perry, the Minnesota Supreme Court...
HO: Stop! I'm not a lawyer. I don't want to hear this. If you want to practice, I'm more than happy to set up a court date for you.
HO: I can also change this ticket down to $14.
Me thinking to myself: My case is weak and getting it dragged down to $14 is sufficient to prove that I can play the system. That and, more importantly, since I'll be done with term and back in Massachusetts in about a month, setting up a court date would likely be a huge pain in the neck.
Me: I can do that.
HO probably thinking to himself: That saves us litigation costs.
End result: I save $21 and score a moral victory.