A South Florida woman is suing her community after she was fined more than $100,000 for, according to city officials, parking incorrectly in her own driveway over the course of a year.
A woman named Sandy Martinez found herself the target of what appears to be a lazy and vicious campaign of harassment from local government officials in Lantana, Florida, after she attempted the impossible logistics of parking four cars at a house with a narrow driveway — and that’s a house which she actually owns.
If you’ve ever had guests over to a home with a single-car driveway, you know it can be challenging to find a spot for that many vehicles. Martinez made it work for her and her family, but officials in the city had deemed the manner in which those cars were parked to be in violation of local codes.
The reason: Some vehicles actually at times extended outward slightly touching either the front lawn while two others reached out into a walkway.
An eyesore for bored neighbors? Maybe. A headache for a family with a multitude of drivers? Sure. But was it all illegal? Per Lantana officials in Palm Beach County — absolutely.
Surely there’s never been a better case argued for libertarianism than this one — even if you’re not a libertarian. This homeowner is now facing a financial catastrophe for how her family parked on its own property.
According to WPTV-TV, Martinez was fined $250 per day for parking infractions in her own driveway for a year, at a house she owns, and that’s not even the full scope of the insanity. The city of Lantana wants her to pay an additional $63,500 after cracks were discovered in her concrete driveway and a fence on her property was found to be damaged by a storm.
The worst part: city officials apparently issued daily fines and never sent anyone out on a daily basis to even ensure she was even in violation of city codes. They simply assumed she was breaking local parking and property ordinances, and let the fines accrue from there.
Those fines added up for a year, which has led to a total of more than $160,000 owed to the West Palm Beach suburb — a sum that would bankrupt most families. Martinez told WPTV the fines are actually worth more than her home.
Martinez and her lawyer, a man named Mike Greenberg, have teamed up with a legal libertarian nonprofit called the Institute for Justice to file a suit against the city over the absurd fees.
An attorney for the Institute for Justice named Ari Bargil is actually making the case that the fines were unconstitutional.
“That’s really what this case is about is excessive fines,” the attorney said. “We are here in this driveway because of a $100,000 parking violation. And added on top of that are $65,000 in more fines for cosmetic violations that my client fixed years ago, for cracks in the driveway and for a broken fence after a storm.”
Describing the situation for Martinez as “catastrophic,” Bargil stated: “The government doesn’t have the power to impose the financial death penalty for trivial violations.”
Greenberg, Martinez’s personal attorney, said that when his client was notified of her infractions, she immediately complied with the law. In what appears to be a miscarriage of justice in the Florida community, nobody from the city ever came by to follow up. The city simply continued to let the fines mount.
Martinez said she tried to get into contact with the city to put the situation to rest, but didn’t have any luck.
Lantana agreed to reduce all those fines to $25,000, but Martinez had to pay that sum by the week before Christmas, which she was unable to do. Now, she’s stuck owing the full $160,000.
She doesn’t seem intent on paying the fines, and she seems to have good council.
Bargil said he is suing the city on the grounds that the fines violate Martinez’s Constitutional rights.
“We’re suing, asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that says that the fines imposed against Sandy are unconstitutionally excessive because they’re grossly disproportionate to the offense,” he told WPTV. “We’re not asking for money. We’re fighting on principle on behalf of Sandy.”
Hopefully, Martinez can get the situation resolved, and it sounds like she’s working to do just that. But if Lantana’s officials seem a tad bit irrational here, just remember that this is the same county where city officials once fined former President Donald Trump $1,250 per day for displaying an American flag that was deemed too prominent on the landscape at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Trump eventually beat his uptight neighbors. Perhaps Martinez, who is just minutes away, will have the same luck.
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