Washington’s Top Court Cracks Down on Excessive City Fines
The Washington state Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that the government could not deprive a man of the truck he was living in because he couldn’t afford to repay hundreds of dollars in impound charges. That action counts as levying excessive fines and violates the Constitution, according to the ruling.
In 2016, Steven Long, a tradesman who was living out of his truck, parked his vehicle in a gravel lot owned by the city of Seattle and remained there for three months. Eventually, police warned him that he was violating municipal law by parking in the same spot for more than 72 hours. When he did not move his truck, the city impounded it and towed it away, leaving Long homeless (and without his work tools).
When Long attempted to get the truck back, he faced fines and impound fees of nearly $1,000. A magistrate cut the fees nearly in half and signed Long onto a $50-per-month payment plan. He appealed the arrangement with the help of Columbia Legal Services, arguing that the financial demands placed on him violated the Excessive Fines Clause of the Constitution.
The Washington Supreme Court ultimately agreed, concluding that a defendant’s inability to pay a fine is something that court
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