By Eric Egan
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- With a disability placard, you're permitted to park at no charge at any parking meter in the city of Charleston.
Across the campus of MUSC you'll see many metered spaces filled with cars with the placards. Recently, ABC News 4 was asked to look into the possibility of people posing as handicapped to park for free, while illegally using the disability placards.
Judge for yourself what we found.
You see red, it means expired. You see blue, that's perfectly fine. State law allows a disabled person park for free in a handicapped, metered space. The Department of Motor Vehicles now issues handicap placards with pictures of the disabled as a way to verify it is being rightfully used.
If you're paying attention, the pictures can show you quite a bit.
For example, Shannon Wright, an MUSC employee - we know that because her work badge clearly identified her as such - parked her car recently right outside the Hollings Cancer Center. We watched Wright walk into the building next door. She would later tell us over the phone she was going into her office.
ABC News 4: "We noticed you had a handicapped decal; we wondered if you'd be willing to tell us your disability?"
We confronted Wright after she returned to her car, in a handicapped space, with a disability placard displayed. The placard did not carry much resemblance to Wright.
Wright: "It's my mom's, she dropped the car off."
But her mother didn't come with her.
ABC News 4: "We saw you park the car earlier, and then walk inside. Where's your mom now, miss? She's inside?"
ABC News 4: "By law, doesn't she have to be in the car?"
Wright: "I don't know."
Wright claimed her disabled mother was somewhere inside the cancer center, a place where patients go for grueling treatment, leaving them tired and very weak.
ABC News 4: "They need these spots and when people aren't handicapped and park in them they have to find other places to park. Do you think that's fair you're parking here even though you're not handicapped?"
The hospital employee changed her story and said another family member helped her mom.
ABC News 4: "So did you take her home? I'm confused?"
Wright: "My aunt picked her up, OK?"
That's as far we got. Wright ended the discussion by driving away.
"There is never any room on the street," said Cathy Morrison.
Earlier that day, Morrison couldn't find a spot in front of the cancer center. Her mother comes for chemotherapy there twice a weak. Morrison is often forced to park in a garage across the street.
"It's just not fair that you can't park right here and go right in," Morrison said. "They're sick, they're in there getting chemo, their immune system is down, they're tired, they're weak; some of them are dying."
With a new day came another questionable parking scenario. We met another woman who used a disabled placard to park for free. But the picture on the placard did not fit her description.
ABC News 4: "Can I ask you a question?
Driver: "Right now I can't, I have children to pick up."
We were first told she was in a hurry to get her kids.
ABC News 4: "Do you have a disability ma'am?"
Driver: "My grandmother does."
Her story quickly changed, she was suddenly en route to pick up grandma, who was not in the car.
ABC News 4: "Is she in the car?"
Driver: "No, I have to go pick her up."
ABC News 4: "What's her name ma'am?
Out of answers, she rolled up the window and wouldn't give us a second look.
ABC News 4: "Were you parking here illegally ma'am?"
Our final question greeted with another drive-off.
Would we get an honest response from the owner of the next car we'd confront? The picture on the placard, clearly a man. Instead, we met a woman at the car who told us she's an MUSC employee.
Our conversation started near the end of business hours outside the hospital.
ABC News 4: "I noticed that's not you on your handicap placard."
Driver: "I have to go pick up my husband."
ABC News 4: "But your husband's not in the car, and your car has been here quite a while. Where's he at right now?"
Driver: "He's at the hospital."
ABC News 4: "He's at the hospital?"
ABC News 4: "Shouldn't he be with you right now, especially if you're at work, if you should be using that pass?"
Driver: "Not if I have to pick him up from the, um, um, door."
ABC News 4: "But you were at work, so obviously he wasn't with you before that."
Without saying where she was going, this woman hurried off away from the hospital. For a third time, we would not meet or get an explanation from the person on the placard, leaving us with more questions than answers.
In response to this story, MUSC said it takes every parking violation seriously.
The hospital released this statement:
"While it is important to note that all street side parking violations are the responsibility of the City of Charleston, MUSC takes it seriously when we are notified of employee parking violations on or near our campus through the City or our own Public Safety Department. MUSC disciplinary policy outlines violations of the University parking regulations, and the MUSC Code of Conduct is also used to address this issue if necessary. If an MUSC employee is found to be in violation of a state law regarding handicap parking, MUSC will support the enforcement of this legislation and appropriate internal policies."
What's more, MUSC says it has lots on campus where employees can park for free. The hospital also validates parking for its workers.
The maximum penalty for violating this law is a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.