Seeing a familiar little envelope on your car windshield usually causes immediate frustration, sometimes even panic.

A parking ticket is a hassle for most drivers. It's not uncommon for those greeted by a parking ticket to re-read signs and look for any detail that may get them out of having to pay a fine. A man in New York City took his parking citation woes a step further earlier this year, and decided to look beyond the street signs.

Ben Wellington runs I Quant NY. The blog features stories about findings in New York City's Open Data portal. One of Wellington's posts discusses receiving numerous parking tickets for parking in a spot he knew was legal. Upon surfing NYC's Open Data, he discovered hundreds of other drivers had been issued parking citations for the same legal spots, generating nearly $2 million dollars in less than three years. Upon bringing it to the attention of the NYPD, Wellington was able to make changes to the way these legal spots were handled.

Open Data is resource available in many different U.S. cities, including Sacramento, Roseville and Elk Grove. These portals aims to provide government data to the public, such as crime reports, budget and finance details, and election information. The city of Sacramento and many of the surrounding areas don't provide information about parking citations on their Open Data sources.

How can you fight a parking ticket in Sacramento, without using Open Data like Wellington did in NYC?

If you receive one of the dreaded slips and feel the need to contest it, you can take these four steps to try and get it dismissed.

  1. Check for photos of your parking violation. Pictures can help serve as evidence of a violation or, the lack of one. You can view your photos on the City of Sacramento's website. The website's Parking Services allows users to search for a citations and see if there are photos attached. Keep in mind, the site states the citation is still valid even if there are no photos.
  2. Fill out an online form to contest your citation. The city's parking services allows you to quickly submit a request to have your ticket reviewed. You can also fill out a form or write a letter and mail your request to the city's revenue division. The request must be submitted online or mailed within 21 calendar days of the citation issue date.
  3. If you contest the parking ticket and it's still considered valid after it's reviewed, you can request an administrative hearing. You have mail your request to go to court and must do so before the deadline shown on your citation review notice or you'll face a penalty.
  4. Call the city's Revenue Division for any questions you may have regarding your appeal of the parking ticket. If you can't hold for the long wait on the phone, the Revenue Division provides an office address.

Ben Wellington was able to get his parking tickets dismissed because he learned about a little-known parking rule change. Wellington actually found NYPD wasn't even aware of the change, which is why the citations were issued in the first place.

If you get a parking ticket, you can always do a little research on the violation itself. Sacramento's city website allows you to look up the California Vehicle Code (CVC), as well as details on city parking fines. You can also search for Sacramento City Codes under titles 10 and 12 if you want more information on city rules.

The City of Sacramento's Media and Communications Specialist, Maria "Marycon" Razo, said you can always check out the city's social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, or reach out to City Council to stay updated on any changes made to parking rules. Razo also suggests taking measures to avoid receiving parking tickets.

"We encourage you to check out our new tier-based parking meter program to avoid a parking ticket," she said.

The program allows you to pay a higher meter rate to add more time to your parking spot beyond the standard two-hour limit. Razo said this option is cheaper than getting a parking ticket. The meters are currently active in parts of downtown Sacramento.

Roseville and Elk Grove have a similar system to the city of Sacramento when processing parking ticket reviews, with the difference that contest forms are handled by each city's police departments. Elk Grove Police Department directs citation review forms to the Carol Miller Justice Center.