A woman is suing the town of Lantana, Florida, after being hit with more than $100,000 in fines for parking in her own driveway incorrectly.
Sandy Martinez and the Institute for Justice announced the lawsuit in a news conference Thursday, notifying the public that Martinez had been slapped with over a year’s worth of daily fines for the minor offense of parking her car partially on her front lawn in violation of town codes, WPTV-TV reported.
According to Section 6-30 of the Code of Ordinances of the Town of Lantana, “all off-street parking spaces, including driveways but not including parking spaces located in swale areas as permitted by section 17-34, shall be asphalt, concrete or block and shall be hard surfaced and in good repair in compliance with town codes.”
Martinez reportedly lives with her mother, her sister, and her three children — two of whom are now adults. Given the fact that, in total, the household contains four drivers, it is often the case that four vehicles need to be squeezed into the driveway as best they can. That predicament resulted in one of the four vehicles being parked partially on grass.
Martinez claimed that after she was first cited for the violation, she called the city, but an inspector never came to her residence. Then, more than a year later, she learned that she had been fined $250 a day for 407 days for the offense, totaling $101,750. On top of that, the city fined Martinez $65,000 more in fines for cosmetic violations, such as cracks in the driveway and a broken fence.
“I’ve been living here for 17 years now and I’m being fined over $160,000 for parking on my own property,” Martinez said during the press conference.
Her lawyer, Ari Bargil, argued the extraordinary fines plainly violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Florida Constitution.
“The government doesn’t have the power to impose the financial death penalty for trivial violations,” he added, noting that his client has rectified all of the offenses immediately but that a code inspector has not come by to confirm the changes and drop the fines.
Martinez told reporters that she repeatedly “left voicemail after voicemail” with the town to have someone come to her home, but eventually gave up trying after extended time “playing phone tag.”
According to WPTV-TV, the town offered to reduce the fines to $25,000 if Martinez agreed to pay them by Dec. 18, 2020, but reinstated the initial total after she refused to pay.
With the lawsuit, Martinez is seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that the fines imposed on her are unconstitutional.