A Florida woman faces more than $100,000 in fines, for parking violations, on her own driveway.
Town officials in Lantana, a small burg on the Atlantic coast just south of West Palm Beach, have slapped Sandy Martinez with $101,750 in fines – $250 a day for 407 days – “for parking cars partially on her own grass.”
That’s according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest legal aid group that is suing the town on Martinez’s behalf.
But that’s not all.
The town, according to court records, also has hit Martinez with $16,125 in fines for having cracks in her driveway. And there is another penalty of $47,375 for having a downed fence in her yard, apparently damaged after a storm but which was fixed once she completed an insurance claim.
Overall cost: $165,250 – nearly quadruple what Martinez makes in a year.
The town is sticking strictly to the letter of its code, which says “all off-street parking spaces, including driveways … shall be asphalt, concrete or block and shall be hard surfaced and in good repair in compliance with town codes.”
In court documents, though, the Institute for Justice asserts the “crippling” fines were imposed for “trivial code violations,” and that they are both excessive and unconstitutional under Florida’s state Constitution.
According to the lawsuit, Martinez works in a medical office that treats cancer patients, and in order “to make things work financially,” she shares her home of the last 17 years with her mother, her older sister, and her three children, two of whom are adults.
“Together, the four of them — Sandy, her sister, and her two adult children — share the traditional burdens of maintaining a household. But having four working adults in a single-family home means having four drivers, on four different schedules, who all need a place to park,” the lawsuit says.
“That often meant that there were four cars parked in their driveway. This arrangement resulted in the outer wheels of each car extending slightly beyond the side edge of the driveway — partially onto a walkway on one side and onto a grassy area on the other.”
“The only safe, sensible way to park the cars is by arranging them in the driveway with the sides of the cars extending partially onto the grass and/or walkway,” the lawsuit adds, noting that parking on the street would block a lane of traffic.
“Given all of the legal and practical restrictions on where Sandy can park, the reality is that when everyone is home, it is impossible to park without putting the cars in harm’s way or risking violating city ordinances. Thankfully, the neighbors do not complain and have never asked Sandy to be more mindful about how she parks. The neighbors understand that Sandy and her family members need to be able to get to work and school.”
The Institute for Justice argues, “Sandy and her family live paycheck-to-paycheck. Each member of the household works and contributes however they can. After paying her mortgage, bills, and basic living expenses, there is nothing left.”
“A cracked driveway does not present a legitimate threat to the health and safety of the general public in Lantana. A broken fence does not present a legitimate threat to the health and safety of the general public in Lantana. Parking more cars on a driveway than its space can technically fully accommodate is not a legitimate threat to the health and safety of the general public in Lantana,” Martinez’s lawyer concludes.
“Taken together, the City’s fines of $165,250 for code violations which are each unrelated to health and safety is grossly disproportionate to the respective offenses and shocks the conscience.”