Florida City Tried to Steal Man’s Home for not Cutting Grass
Article from Reason by Brian Doherty.
The city of Dunedin, Florida, wants to foreclose on a private home because the owner, Jim Ficken, owes the city over $29,000 in fines. The crime for which he is threatened with home loss? Having his lawn grass be too tall (over 10 inches) for a period of eight weeks last summer. The city fined him $500 per day of violation, with no warning.
Ficken is 69 years old and lives on a fixed income. He was unaware that he was racking up the daily fines, but cut his grass within two days of finally being informed by a city code inspector that there was a problem. In a sane world, Ficken’s explanation for neglecting his lawn and the fact that he remedied the problem as soon as he learned of it, would seemingly resolve the issue. No harm, no fine.
But the Dunedin government is apparently not sane. Because Ficken was also cited for overly tall grass in 2015, the city—unbeknownst to Ficken—classified him as a “repeat violator.” This classification doubled his daily fine from $250 to $500 and relieved the Code Enforcement Board of providing him notice. Because Ficken cannot afford the fines he didn’t know he was accumulating, the city of Dunedin insists that it can now take his home to pay off his debt.
With the help of the Institute for Justice, Ficken is suing to prevent the city from stealing his house. Earlier this year in the case of Timbs v. Indiana, the Supreme Court showed a willingness to give teeth to the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive fines, even when not involving direct federal action.
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: liz west [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]