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