Fined For Parking On Her Own Property, Woman Wins First Round In Court.

Back in May of this year, we wrote about Sandy Martinez, a woman in the Florida City of Lantana who was facing over $165,000 in code enforcement fines – $100,000 of which was for parking on her own property.

Two of Sandy’s children are of employment age, and so along with her sister, there are 4 working people in the house who drive to work in separate cars. As one can imagine, the four cars make for an interesting parking situation.

Sometimes when they park, the cars may have had two wheels that are off of the driveway. There is no doubt that the car is mostly on the driveway, just one side of the wheels are off of paved surface.

The City of Lantana says that is a violation of the city codes and has been fining Martinez $250 a day to the point where with penalties and interest, Martinez now owes the City of Lantana over $100,000 dollars.

Along with the Institute for Justice, Sandy sued the town claiming the fines were a violation of the Florida constitution which prohibits excessive fines or fines that “shock the conscience.”

The City of Lantana sought to dismiss the case and on July 12, 2021, Judge Donald Hafele denied the motion which means Martinez is one step closer to a trial.

What makes this case so frustrating is not just the amounts, or the pettiness of the Town of Lantana, but the fact that when Martinez was notified of the initial violation, she fixed it. She did not have her family parking with any part of the wheels off of the pavement. Lantana requires that once a violation is corrected, the person must call the Code Enforcement Department and tell them it is fixed. What is supposed to happen is that an inspector will come out, verify that the issue has been resolved and that is the end.

Martinez called the City and Code Enforcement to inform them the issue had been resolved but no inspector came out. That meant that the daily fines kept adding up not because of anything Martinez did, but because the City screwed up.

It almost seems as if Lantana wants Martinez to pay for their incompetence.

Six-figure fines for parking on your own property are outrageous and today’s decision will allow Sandy to make the case that these fines are unconstitutional,” said IJ Attorney Ari Bargil. “While Florida’s Constitution forbids fines that are ‘excessive’ or ‘shock the conscience’, places like Lantana routinely impose crippling fines against residents for minor code violations. It is time that Florida courts make it clear that cities cannot fine people into poverty for trivial violations.”

“It’s surreal that the town still refuses to admit that what it’s doing to me is abusive and unfair,” said Sandy. “Like everyone else in my neighborhood, I work hard for what I’ve got. I shouldn’t have to fight in court to stop the city from fining me into poverty. But with today’s decision, I’m glad that I am one step closer to making sure that doesn’t happen—to me or anyone else.”

Congratulations to Martinez and the Institute for Justice on this first step toward justice.

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