A Florida city came under fire after fining a woman more than $100,000 for parking incorrectly. The real kicker, however, is where she was parked when she was fined. It’s no wonder why so many people have come to dislike big government.
Sandy Martinez, her mother, her sister, and her three children — two of whom are now adults — didn’t have a lot of options when it came to parking at the Lantana home they shared with one another. The driveway simply didn’t have enough space for the four drivers in the household, forcing Sandy to squeeze her vehicle into the driveway the best she could.
Sadly, that meant having her car partially parked in the grass on her front lawn. Since it was their own property and the vehicle was only partially in the grass, Sandy didn’t see a problem. However, the city had an issue with it, The Blaze reported.
According to Section 6-30 of the Code of Ordinances of the Town of Lantana, “all off-street parking spaces, including driveways but not including parking spaces located in swale areas as permitted by section 17-34, shall be asphalt, concrete or block and shall be hard surfaced and in good repair in compliance with town codes.”
Citing the ordinance, the town of Lantana slapped Sandy Martinez with a violation. She called the city, but an inspector never came to her residence. In fact, she told reporters that she repeatedly “left voice mail after voice mail” with the town, trying to get someone to come to her home, but to no avail. She eventually gave up and quit calling after “playing phone tag” with the city.
Unfortunately for Sandy, things were far from over. More than a year after she was first cited for the violation, she discovered that the city had been fining her $250 a day for 407 days. That resulted in a total of $101,750 for the minor offense of parking in her own driveway incorrectly, but that’s not all.
On top of that already hefty fine for the harmless offense of parking her car partially on her own grass in violation of town codes, the city hit Sandy with an additional $65,000 in fines for cosmetic violations, including cracks in the driveway and a broken fence. With all fines combined, Sandy owed the city over $165,000 — almost four times more than she earns in an entire year.
“I’ve been living here for 17 years now, and I’m being fined over $160,000 for parking on my own property,” Sandy explained during a press conference. “I think it’s ridiculous that they’re charging so much in fines for something so small,” she said. “They let the fines run for over a year, and that’s ridiculous.”
Initially, the town offered to reduce the fines to $25,000 but only if Sandy paid by a specified date, according to Nicole Dritz, the town’s development services director. When Sandy failed to pay, the original fines were reinstated. But, Sandy wasn’t going down without a fight.
Hit with over a year’s worth of daily fines that far exceed her income for partially parking on her own front lawn, Sandy and the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit against the town of Lantana, Florida, arguing that the extraordinary fines plainly violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Florida Constitution, according to WPTV. It’s also worth mentioning that Sandy’s neighbors never complained, according to the lawsuit.
Sandy isn’t suing for monetary damages. Instead, her lawsuit is seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that the fines imposed on her are unconstitutional. “We’re suing, asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that says that the fines imposed against Sandy are unconstitutionally excessive because they’re grossly disproportionate to the offense,” Ari Bargil, Sandy’s lawyer, explained.
“We’re not asking for money. We’re fighting on principle on behalf of Sandy,” Bargil added. “That’s really what this case is about is excessive fines,” he explained. “We are here in this driveway because of a $100,000 parking violation. And added on top of that are $65,000 in more fines for cosmetic violations that my client fixed years ago, for cracks in the driveway and for a broken fence after a storm.”
Calling the amount of the fines “catastrophic,” Ari Bargil added, “The government doesn’t have the power to impose the financial death penalty for trivial violations.” Mike Greenberg, who also represents Sandy Martinez, also noted that their client immediately rectified all of the offenses but a code inspector had not come by to confirm the changes and drop the fines.
According to Amendment VIII of the Constitution of the United States of America, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” If over $165,000 in fines for the harmless offense of parking her car partially on her own front lawn isn’t excessive, as well as cruel and unusual punishment, I don’t know what is. This town should be ashamed.