The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The case is Pimentel v. City of Los Angeles, in an opinion written by Judge Kenneth Lee and joined by Judge Paul Watford:
To determine whether a fine is grossly disproportional to the underlying offense [and thus unconstitutionally excessive], four factors are considered: (1) the nature and extent of the underlying offense; (2) whether the underlying offense related to other
illegal activities; (3) whether other penalties may be imposed for the offense; and (4) the extent of the harm caused by the offense.
[Detailed analysis of the factors omitted, but the heart of the court's reasoning, I think, is this: -EV] [The $63 fine] bears "some relationship" to the gravity of the offense. While a parking violation is not a serious offense, the fine is not so large, either, and likely deters violations.
Sounds right to me.
The court remanded to the trial court to apply the Excessive Fines Clause test (such as it is) to the $63 late fee—the trial court hadn't done that, and "in its brief to this court, the City of Los Angeles did not even bother addressing the constitutionality of its late fee." But the Ninth Circuit's logic suggests that the late fee would likewise not be unconstitutional.
Judge Mark Bennett concurred in the judgment, but concluded that the city was acting in its capacity as property owner in imposing fees for parking, including for overtime parking, and that such proprietary rules shouldn't generally be subject to Excessive Fines Clause analysis.