As we’ve noted before, the federal government and official Washington aren’t the only sources of bad politicians, politics, and policies. Local governments – through sheer numbers – are far more likely to abuse your rights and trample your liberties.

A case in point: Lantana, Florida, which has levied six-figure fines against homeowner Sandy Martinez that exceed both her income and are nearly half as large as her home’s value.

Was she running a scrap mill in her back yard? Housing dangerous animals in her basement? Nope. She parked her car incorrectly.

The Institute for Justice, which fought against the fines in court, notes:

The city fined her more than $100,000—at a rate of $250 per day—for violating an ordinance regulating how one can park their car on their own driveway. When stacked on top of the astronomical fines the city imposed for two other trivial code violations—$47,375 for a storm-damaged fence and $16,125 for cracks in her driveway, each of which she fixed as soon as she could afford to—Lantana has fined Sandy over $165,000. That outrageous amount is nearly four times her annual income and more than half the value of her home.

But the government cannot lock you into a lifetime of crushing debt for such harmless code infractions. That is because Florida’s Constitution clearly forbids “excessive fines.” This protection enshrines a centuries-old axiom: The punishment must fit the crime. By trying to impose ruinous fines on Sandy for such minor infractions, Lantana is violating Sandy’s constitutional right to be free from excessive fines.

Constitutions only matter if they are enforced – and that includes protecting residents from local governments that have a nagging tendency to fine first, and ask questions later (if at all).