New Jersey lawmakers want to crackdown on those misusing handicap placards.

Eric Hood, ThinkStock

New legislation calls for the creation of a penalty of up to $500 for unlawfully using a parking placard issued to someone with a disability. The measure is  sponsored by Assembly members Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton), John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) and Dan Benson (D-Hamilton)

"We've all seen in at a shopping mall where somebody perfectly capable of parking anywhere emerges from a handicapped space and walks right into the shopping plaza," Gusciora said. "It's unfortunate when a perfectly healthy person does that because it sends a bad message and trivializes the parking spot."

In New Jersey there is already a fine for parking in a handicapped space without a legally issued handicapped placard. This legislation takes things a step further.

"We want an offense in and of itself that a misuse of a placard would result in a separate penalty. We want to penalize misuse of a handicapped placard with a $500 fine," Gusciora explained.

Under current law anyone ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot without a placard is fined $250 for a first offense. That would remain the law, but under the bill anyone caught with a borrowed, stolen or expired handicapped placard would face the higher fine.

"Abuse of parking privileges intended to make facilities more accessible is a serious violation of the rights of New Jersey residents with disabilities, and it ought to be treated as such," Wisniewski said in an emailed press release.

The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee approved the bill on June 4. It now awaits a vote in the full Assembly. Currently, a Senate version of the legislation has not been drafted.

"Restricted parking spaces facilitate self-sufficiency for New Jersey residents with disabilities and are representative of our state's belief that all people should have the opportunity to live, work and fully participate in society," Benson said in an emailed press release.