Fines

This Woman Faces $165,000 in Fines for 3 Trivial Code Violations

Sandy Martinez is challenging the exorbitant penalty for driveway cracks, a storm-damaged fence, and cars parked in an "unapproved" manner on her own property.

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The town of Lantana, Florida, is demanding that Sandy Martinez pay it $165,000 in fines, which is nearly four times her annual income and more than half what her house is worth. The municipal code violations that led to those fines are decidedly less impressive: driveway cracks, a storm-damaged fence, and cars parked on her own property in an "unapproved" manner.

Martinez argues that Lantana's absurdly disproportionate response to her trivial infractions violates the state constitution's ban on "excessive fines." The Institute for Justice, which represents Martinez, says the case epitomizes "taxation by citation," the perverse practice of using code enforcement to raise revenue rather than protect public safety.

This week, Lantana, a town of about 12,000 people in Palm Beach County, asked 15th Judicial Circuit Judge Donald Hafele to dismiss Martinez's lawsuit. Hafele declined. "It's surreal that the town still refuses to admit that what it's doing to me is abusive and unfair," Martinez says.

The fines imposed on Martinez stem mostly from the way she and her family solved a parking puzzle. Martinez has a car. So do her two adult children and her sister. But her street has no curbs and is not wide enough to accommodate parked cars.

Since Martinez and her relatives could not legally or safely park on the street, the driveway seemed like the only viable option. When all four cars were parked at Martinez's home, two of them sometimes extended slightly beyond the driveway, which is flanked by her lawn and a walkway.

As Martinez's complaint notes, "parking on one's own front yard space, even a tiny bit, is illegal in Lantana." The penalty is $250 per day.

After she received her first citation in May 2019, Martinez repeatedly tried to arrange a visit by a code enforcement officer to show that she had corrected the violation. But after those efforts proved "fruitless," the complaint says, she "eventually forgot about the issue."

The daily fines continued to accumulate, eventually exceeding $100,000. Martinez understandably thinks "it's ridiculous that Lantana would charge me over $100,000 for parking on my own grass that I paid for."

The city also faulted Martinez for driveway cracks that the complaint describes as "minor and purely cosmetic." Because Martinez "did not have the time or money to fix [the driveway] right away," the lawsuit says, she was hit with $75 daily fines for 215 days, totaling $16,125—"far greater than the cost of an entirely new driveway."

And then there was the fence. Because it was downed by a major storm, the repair was covered by insurance. But the claim took a while to resolve, and meanwhile, Martinez could not afford to fix the fence. The delay resulted in $125 daily fines for 379 days, totaling $47,375—"several times the cost of the repair and substantially more than the cost of a completely new fence."

Martinez's case is part of the Institute for Justice's broader attack on local code enforcement practices that impose outrageous fines for trifling offenses. Dunedin, Florida, for example, demanded $30,000 for tall grass, while Eagle, Wisconsin, imposed a $90,000 penalty for trucks parked on rural property.

Small towns facing hard times often come to rely on fines for a substantial part of their budgets, a habit that can be hard to shake. But the oppressive practices encouraged by that strategy leave residents bewildered, resentful, and angry—a situation highlighted by a 2015 Justice Department investigation of code enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri.

As much as Martinez might want to escape Lantana and its draconian decrees, she is trapped. Even selling her house would not raise enough money to cover her debt to the city, since she also would have to pay off her mortgage.

"Places like Lantana routinely impose crippling fines against residents for minor code violations," says Institute for Justice attorney Ari Bargil. "It is time that Florida courts make it clear that cities cannot fine people into poverty for trivial violations."

© Copyright 2021 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. As usual, Sullum omits the obvious reason why town codes are implemented and enforced: residents don’t want freeloaders and slobs turning paradise into a shit hole.

    The adult sons should learn to park correctly, get smaller vehicles, or pay for off-premises parking elsewhere. They shouldn’t be parking with their cars hanging in the street or ignoring town fines for SEVERAL FUCKING YEARS.

    This slob could also have her ADULT SONS pay to fix the broken property, including cracks and fence damage, where they’ve lived for years, ignoring fines and the unattractive problems.

    Imagine living next door or down the same street, trying to sell your own home, knowing your property is worth less because of lazy, stupid, inconsiderate neighbors who don’t fix their shit. It could lead to a violent confrontation between neighbors.

    Town codes exist to maintain property value, but also to promote safety and peace. This is a proper use of the NAP, using a democratic process to get entire neighborhoods living harmoniously, for the benefit of all, without the use of violence.

    1. Arguments that local zoning isn’t necessary bad could be made. That it’s an example of the NAP isn’t one of them. Unless the fines aren’t mandatory.

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    2. I’d rather live next to her than you.

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      1. But are you parking it in the driveway?

      2. It seems a lot of the bots have been buying a lot of cars recently. Do they know something we don’t?

    4. Did you ever consider that maybe asshole individuals like yourself is a bigger factor on why the shithole you live in is worth less? Or maybe it’s that your shithole isn’t worth what you think it’s worth!

    5. Imagine living next door or down the same street, trying to sell your own home, knowing your property is worth less because of lazy, stupid, inconsiderate neighbors who don’t fix their shit. It could lead to a violent confrontation between neighbors.

      Soooo…Are you intimating that if Mrs. Martinez and her family were your neighbors, and had a cracked driveway, damaged fence, and cars parked in a way you don’t like but not blocking your freedom of movement, you would be willing to initiate violence against them?

      And you’d initiate violence against them instead of doing the neighborly thing and either help her with the damage or at least refer her to a good driveway or fencing contractor?

      You obviously don’t know the first thing about the NAP/NIFF Principle or even about being a decent neighbor or a decent human being! And if you’re so concerned with selling your home, do you really think your town is a Paradise?

      1. https://www.aier.org/article/externality-is-no-good-excuse-for-mandatory-vaccination/

        From Don Boudreaux, via Cafe Hayek.

        Specifically about mandatory vaccinations, but the externalities aspect is something m4019597 could benefit from in general.

    6. Have you googled where she lives? It’s not exactly Beverly Hills.

      1. That makes the Town of Lantana all the more evil in fining Sandy Martinez to death for this nonsense.

    7. Did you miss the part of the story where she stopped doing the prohibited behavior, but the fines continued accruing automatically because the situation wasn’t reinspected, a thing which only the city could do and was in the city’s financial self-interest to *not* do?

      Do you truly believe that your property values are significantly impacted by someone parking with their passenger side tires 4 inches onto their own grass?

      Gods, I’d hate to have you as a neighbor.

      1. Yes. No, just having fun.

    8. m4019597 has a YUUUUGELY SELF-RIGHTEOUS punishment boner! All who are NOT as perfect as m4019597 must be severely PUNISHED!!!

    9. Violent confrontation? Perhaps you could try talking to them 1st. Quit viewing your house as an investment and maybe look at it as a home. Maybe during your discussion, you could offer to help. That would be, you know, neighborly.

    10. Did you just blow in from stupidville? Driving out “undesirables” by government force for what they do with their property is a proper use of the NAP? Really?

      And it’s not your job to decide what her ADULT SONS should do.

    11. m4019597 says, “Town codes exist to maintain property value,…”

      Did not know it was obligatory for your neighbors to cooperate in elevating your home’s value. Do you plan on sharing the profits of your home’s proceeds with your neighbors or are you as big a cheapskate as you are a scumbag? Asking for a neighbor.

    12. You do not own your property value. It is not a violation of anybody’s rights to have the condition of someone else’s property negatively affect the value of yours.

    13. >They shouldn’t be parking with their cars hanging in the street

      Who says they did? As far as I can tell, their cars were hanging onto the lawn and/or walkway – their own property, but not their driveway.

      1. The article says they did.

        1. The article says they did.

          No, the article says the cars were extending beyond the driveway onto her own lawn, and that is specifically what the fines were for. I’d have less sympathy for cars protruding into the street, but that wasn’t the case.

    14. “As usual, Sullum omits the obvious reason why town codes are implemented and enforced: residents don’t want freeloaders and slobs turning paradise into a shit hole…”

      When I want your opinion, I’ll tell it to you. Until then, fuck off.

  2. “As much as Martinez might want to escape Lantana and its draconian decrees, she is trapped. Even selling her house would not raise enough money to cover her debt to the city, since she also would have to pay off her mortgage.”

    No doubt the city intends to resolve this for her by stealing her house (using the unpaid and unpayable fines as an excuse) and giving it to whatever real estate developer payed the biggest bribe.

    1. Shhh…Don’t give The Donald any new ideas for using government power to practice The Art of the Deal!

      Remember, one of his rules is: Never buy until the seller has to sell. It doesn’t get more “has to sell” than when the property owner has a govenment gun to her head, as many of The Donald’s sellers did via eminent domain.

      1. Trump still living rent-free in your head? Appears so.

        1. That fact about Trump using eminent domain from government cronies to get his properties lived in my head at least 16 years before he became President.

          I thought he was an Oil-Can Harry asshole then and he’s still an Oil-Can Harry asshole now!

          If he lives rent-free in my head, it’s in the hottest-in-the-Summer, coldest-in-the-Winter, moldiest, filthiest, most bug, rat, and vermin-infested portion of my head and he can stay there forever!

  3. So, where’s the other asshole who writes his comment in pink text who hates Sandy Martinez and family? I’m in a new-one-ripping mood now!

  4. The per day is what’s ridiculous. Give her a ticket and don’t let her renew her license or registration until it’s paid.

    1. Yep. Why this is a per day violation/fine with no maximum that can be reached is absurd. Granted I would guess that is by design.

      1. It’s the kind of thing leftie shits like you prefer.

    2. Note too that the fine accrues until the city inspects for compliance. Which it has a financial self-interest to delay as long as possible. And also that it means the fine compounds even if you have stopped the “objectionable” activity.

      It’s like getting a speeding ticket for when you actually were speeding once, and then getting a speeding ticket every day thereafter until a cop specifically cites you for *not* speeding.

      “We’re fining you because we don’t have specific evidence that you’re *not* breaking the law.”

    3. “Give her a ticket and don’t let her renew her license or registration until it’s paid.”

      So, what you are saying is put a gun to her head but just don’t pull the trigger yet.
      FO slaver.

    4. I thought you were for a Constitutional Amendment against government initiation of force? Wha’ happened, IceTrey?

      Nobody has given any reason to believe that Mrs. Martinez and Family have violated anyone’s rights by how they keep their property, so there is no justification for the Town of Lantana to do anything to them!

  5. There doesn’t appear to be any copy of the motion to dismiss on the IJ website, neither in the documents section for this case or elsewhere on the site.

    And also, any response in opposition to the motion to dismiss made by Martinez. IJ has only the press release about the result, but no documents. Not even a copy of the order denying the motion to dismiss.

    I’m interested in the argument(s) made by Lantana for dismissal of the case, and the argument(s) made in response, if any. The press release is less informative than the documents themselves.

    1. That is Sullum for you. He provides little substance here to buttress his fable story.

      1. Sullum provided more substance in the article than you did with your disagreement. Hit and run tactics are not persuasive.

  6. Trash families that think parking an entire fleet from one house in an area with limited parking is cool are trash. But draconian zoning laws are not the solution.
    For the youngins: do not move to urbia or suburbia. Buy 10+ acres and build your house in the middle.

    1. I mean, at least they weren’t taking up the street?

      1. I can’t say for certain but I’d bet $20 against a stale cookie that they were before this.
        But, if you want to park on your lawn leave suburbia. If you don’t want to see your neighbors park on their lawn then leave suburbia.

        1. Agreed. There’s something special about the burbs and too many treat it like the trash they’re used to from the slums. People move there to get out if the slums and pay good money for it.

    2. Did you read the link about Eagle, WI? That’s exactly what they did: bought 10 acres and parked their semi trucks on it. Still fines

      That’s why I told my wife when we move out of our suburban home we are going somewhere unincorporated

      1. I read the link but not what was linked from that. If that is a widespread issue I’m confused why the people don’t elect new officials and sunset the bullshit fines program.
        Yes, move to someplace with few or none of those restrictions. Don’t try to impose any new ones and accept that applies to the neighbors too.

    3. ” Buy 10+ acres and build your house in the middle” says elitist trust fund Chumby. FTFY Too bad you do not respect private property rights and would rather de-humanize people by calling them “trash.”

      1. I have more than 10 acres. And I paid for all of them with money I earned.
        I don’t think they should be fined. I also understand why some of the zoning/HOA requirements are present. I lived in places where one house with one street parking spot had 3 cars, 3 trucks and a trailer. And currently, the homeowner owes that money. Which is why I suggested moving away from places like that. 10 acres here may be as low as $30k. Sink a well and put in a leachfield maybe another $8k. Buy a used trailer for cheap. Then starting building your dream house. And you can do what you want there. Enjoy.

    4. How about if Mrs. Martinez paved her whole lawn over with concrete and posted a sign saying: “No Lawn! Fuck You!” ?

      1. It would look even trashier. Maybe some of the neighbors would be compelled to sell to a methadone clinic, a 24-hour mart and an indoor shooting range.

        1. After the Town of Lantana fines Mrs. Martinez out of her home, that or worse will probably be what the Town government will put there. Maybe a vacant lot to use as a homeless encampment. Then where will that leave all the Statist/CollectivistSocialist/Communist/NIMBY assholes who are against Mrs. Martinez?

        2. Presuming to tell people what to do with their private property rights is pretty damn trashy if you ask me.

          By the way, you can thank the Federal Government for Methadone Clinics. They started the Methadone Clinic program back in the Sixties even before LBJ’s “War On Poverty” to try and undo the damage caused by criminalizing Opiates via The Harrison Act. The Feds are still causing damage to this day.

  7. As we used to say in the sixties –
    “you can’t fight city hall”

    (but you can burn it down)

    1. Only if you are woke.

      1. “Only if you are woke or tyrannized. FTFY

        Hey Fucko, I got better things to do than fix your bs. Too bad you have the time to create it.

        1. The original is fine. *polishes monocle*

  8. This, policing for profit, is one of the reasons blacks and poor people in general, are fed up with the police. But their anger is misplaced, because the politicians that write the laws, then hire, train, and manage (along with writing the police procedures) the police, are the ones responsible. But then so are the voters for electing them. No wonder they wanted to blame someone else.

    I’d say the Democrats managed to gaslight the public (with lots of help from BLM and the MSM) and to blame their management of the police on Trump and his allegedly racist supporters. Racist police, that they hired, trained and managed? An obvious lie.

    1. It’s like I’ve said for over a year now: Don’t defund the police, defund the lawmakers!

  9. I’m interested in the Eagle, Wisc. case. If you’re not allowed to park large trucks on your own farm, where are you supposed to park them?

    1. If you read the info on the IJ website, they specifically bought the property because the previous owner parked his large trucks there and neighbors said it was OK to do so

  10. A few years back we had a big storm blow through my municipality. My sister, who lived a few blocks away from me at the time, had a significant portion of her backyard fence knocked over by winds and blowing debris.

    We had different departments from the city telling her:
    a) she needed to fix the fence immediately or be fined
    b) she needed a permit to have that portion of the fence replaced
    c) she could not get a permit until she resolved an easement issue with the utility company that owns the parcel behind her lot

    Of course, the utility company was in no rush to work with us on the easement issue (the error was in their favor) and they might have been busy trying to get power back up and running after the storm anyway.

    After a few months, I was able to convince her that if we just fixed the damned thing ourselves on a weekend no one would care.

    1. You’re lucky, a neighbor of mine did some fence repair without a permit once. The village started fining him by the day for having an unpermitted structure up. He had to take down the fence, get a permit, and then put it back up

      1. That’s when you FOIA the inspector’s home address and call in a CPS abuse case against her husband.

        Or poop on her lawn.

        Hypothetically.

  11. If you can’t pay the fine, don’t let a storm knock your fence down.

  12. Pft… You don’t ‘own’ that house and land.. The [WE] foundation does. You didn’t ‘build’ that; [WE] did!

    And the [WE] mob has every selfish right to dictate how [WE] houses look and take whatever [WE] deem [WE] want from whoever lives there.

    Can you say a massive “Criminal Gang” at work here.
    Sell your Individual Soul to the [WE] foundation; because you don’t own you, [WE] own you.

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