Meter Bleeder

Unconstitutional tickets


A $63 fine for parking at an expired meter might cost Los Angeles its entire system of parking fines.

In February, Jesus Pimentel brought a lawsuit after getting slammed with what he says is an unconstitutional punishment. He ended up having to pay $175 on the ticket in question after missing the two-week deadline to pay and having various non-statutory fees added on top of the initial fine. He's suing to prove such a large figure ought to be treated as a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines (and of a similar provision in California's constitution).

Because the state threatened to take Pimentel's car or make it illegal for him to drive it if he didn't pay, he considers such a threat without a chance for a fair adversarial process a violation of his constitutional right to due process as well.

As the lawsuit notes, what the city expected Pimentel to pay amounted to 175 percent of the daily median per capita income of a Los Angeles resident. For Latinos in Los Angeles such as Pimentel, it's 336 percent of daily median income. The lawsuit also points out the disparate impact on the poor. "Imposition of these penalties is particularly onerous and disproportionately affects low income workers."