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Georgia city sued by fed-up residents over 'ridiculous' fines for chipped paint, driveway cracks

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+jnelsoninjax    11,934

Hilda Brucker went down to the municipal court in October 2016 after receiving a phone call. She hadn’t received a formal summons or known of any wrongdoing; instead, she thought she needed to clear a ticket.

But when she arrived at the Doraville, Georgia, courthouse, Brucker said she was placed before a judge and prosecutor who accused her of violating city code -- because of cracks in her driveway.

She was fined $100 and sentenced to six months criminal probation, even though this was the first time she was made aware her driveway was considered a problem.

Eventually the charges were dropped, but Brucker said Doraville “went too far” in going after her for the driveway’s appearance.

Hilda Brucker said her experience in court over cracks in her driveway was "horrifying."  (Institute for Justice)

“It was just absolutely horrifying for someone like me who never even had a detention in high school,” Brucker told Fox News on Wednesday.

Brucker is part of an Institute for Justice (IJ) lawsuit against Doraville, a town of about 10,000 people just northeast of Atlanta. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Doraville “using its law enforcement and municipal court system for revenue generation.” 

The suit takes aim at the government's rampant fines over seemingly minor code infractions. About 25 percent of Doraville’s operating budget is reliant on fees and fines, according to IJ, a nonprofit law firm. From August 2016 to August 2017, it raked in about $3.8 million in fines, according to IJ's lawsuit. 

“It’s unconstitutional because it creates a financial incentive for the city government … to ticket people,” Josh House, an IJ attorney on the case, told Fox News. He said people in the town were being “punished” for the condition of their property by having to “fund the Doraville city government.”

The lawsuit also contends that "prosecutors and law enforcement have a financial interest in convicting the defendant," as they have an "incentive" to ticket and prosecute because they are paid from Doraville's revenue.

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macrosslover    633

They've talked about the story locally here as well.  This is the problem when you let your code enforcement get out of hand.  Doraville would be wise to settle and come to a consent decree or they're going to lose this badly.  When you look at the picture of the lady's driveway, I would have told them to kiss off and would have filed a judicial ethics complaint against the judge for giving probation.

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techbeck    6,907

I am betting the local court house has cracks in the sidewalks and problems with the building as well.  I would walk around, take pics, and then turn the officials in on themselves for violating their own rules.

 

Cracks happen and paint chips.  Knowing this, Doraville made rules specifically targeted to gain revenue and is 110% wrong.  Now, if the house had siding falling off and was in obvious disrepair, then sure...fine them.  That includes not mowing the lawn.

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FloatingFatMan    18,630
10 hours ago, techbeck said:

That includes not mowing the lawn.

If any idiot tried to fine me for not mowing my lawn... Well, they'd quickly find themselves having additional reasons for fining me... :p

 

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techbeck    6,907
14 hours ago, FloatingFatMan said:

If any idiot tried to fine me for not mowing my lawn... Well, they'd quickly find themselves having additional reasons for fining me... :p

 

Some places in the US will fine you. Then you have the neighbors that like to complain. 

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theyarecomingforyou    10,425

This is what happens when tax-cuts deprive authorities of revenue, resulting in backdoor taxes like these. Even the police in the US are modelled around revenue generation rather than law and order - fines for crossing the road, fines for broken lights, fines for noise pollution, fines for graffiti, bail money, etc. It's a culture so corrupted around capitalism that money is the only thing that speaks and even local coucils and police forces act like corporations in devising ways to part you from your money.

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macrosslover    633
12 minutes ago, theyarecomingforyou said:

This is what happens when tax-cuts deprive authorities of revenue, resulting in backdoor taxes like these. Even the police in the US are modelled around revenue generation rather than law and order - fines for crossing the road, fines for broken lights, fines for noise pollution, fines for graffiti, bail money, etc. It's a culture so corrupted around capitalism that money is the only thing that speaks and even local coucils and police forces act like corporations in devising ways to part you from your money.



It's more a living within your means thing.  You can't expect to have a city budget the size of LA or NYC, so you will have to offer smaller services.  Most of the stuff you identified are things that need to be fined, because jail is not an alternative to those petty offenses.  There has to be some penalty for actions, the question becomes have the fines gotten too excessive.

 

There's nothing wrong with a fine for jaywalking, broken lights, noise pollution, graffiti, and nothing wrong with bail money.  However, if you're talking about a $1000 fine for jaywalking on the first offense, as an example, then that's a problem.  Raising taxes won't solve the issue.  You have plenty of people that pay high property taxes that fund their local governments, but give them a $10 illegal parking ticket and they raise bloody hell.  The first words out of their mouth are "you know how much taxes I pay."  

 

 It's about balance, nobody wants high property taxes and nickel and dime fines for the stupidest code violations.  They also don't want low property taxes, but excessive fines for code violations.  Most local governments don't know how to balance because they only thing they do well is spend money.

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theyarecomingforyou    10,425
3 hours ago, macrosslover said:

It's more a living within your means thing.  You can't expect to have a city budget the size of LA or NYC, so you will have to offer smaller services.  Most of the stuff you identified are things that need to be fined, because jail is not an alternative to those petty offenses.  There has to be some penalty for actions, the question becomes have the fines gotten too excessive.

Other countries fund their services through taxes rather than capricious ordinances to generate revenues. Policing and government services are so dependent upon revenue from fines that quotas are being set; traffic lights are having their timings changed to catch out motorists. I mean the idea of fining people out of the blue for cracked driveways is ludicrous.

3 hours ago, macrosslover said:

There's nothing wrong with a fine for jaywalking, broken lights, noise pollution, graffiti, and nothing wrong with bail money.

I disagree. Most of those offences could be dealt with a verbal warning and other countries don't have police bail tied to money. You're just so used to a corrupt system that you don't even recognise how corrupt it is.

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macrosslover    633
48 minutes ago, theyarecomingforyou said:

I disagree. Most of those offences could be dealt with a verbal warning and other countries don't have police bail tied to money. You're just so used to a corrupt system that you don't even recognise how corrupt it is.

Different countries and cultures.  If a verbal warning was the only punishment that people faced for those petty offenses, they'd never stop doing them.  I don't have a problem with a verbal warning being the first level punishment, but eventually you do have to get into fines if you want to discourage people from doing these things.

 

49 minutes ago, theyarecomingforyou said:

Other countries fund their services through taxes rather than capricious ordinances to generate revenues. Policing and government services are so dependent upon revenue from fines that quotas are being set; traffic lights are having their timings changed to catch out motorists. I mean the idea of fining people out of the blue for cracked driveways is ludicrous.

Other countries also have sky-high tax rates compared to us and so we'd never be there.  Outside of New York, Chicago, and LA the population density of our metro areas is far lower than European ones, thus it's more expensive to deliver the same level of services you might be used to.

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installshield_freak    5

Aurora and Denver Colorado do the same things.

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DocM    16,534
12 hours ago, theyarecomingforyou said:

This is what happens when tax-cuts deprive authorities of revenue, resulting in backdoor taxes like these.

>

It's a culture so corrupted around capitalism that money is the only thing that speaks and even local coucils and police forces act like corporations in devising ways to part you from your money.

 

News flash: if taxes were higher they'd still fine the crap it of you. The excess monies would go to even more stupid boondoggles than they'd fund without them.

 

Been there, seen that.

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Zagadka    4,059

Meh. File counter-suit for every cracked sidewalk and pothole.

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theyarecomingforyou    10,425
9 hours ago, macrosslover said:

Different countries and cultures.  If a verbal warning was the only punishment that people faced for those petty offenses, they'd never stop doing them.  I don't have a problem with a verbal warning being the first level punishment, but eventually you do have to get into fines if you want to discourage people from doing these things.

Other countries have fines but don't use them to fund public services the same way as we see in the US. Providing a financial incentive for police forces and districts to fine citizens will only encourage them to do so. We see the same thing with private prisons, where prisons have no motivation to reduce reoffending rates and where they lobby for tougher sentences to increase the prison population.oooooooo

9 hours ago, macrosslover said:

Other countries also have sky-high tax rates compared to us and so we'd never be there.  Outside of New York, Chicago, and LA the population density of our metro areas is far lower than European ones, thus it's more expensive to deliver the same level of services you might be used to.

Yet countries like Finland have low population density and manage just fine. The US isn't exceptional in terms of population density, only in how capricious its fines are.

2 hours ago, DocM said:

News flash: if taxes were higher they'd still fine the crap it of you. The excess monies would go to even more stupid boondoggles than they'd fund without them.

You say that yet you don't see the same level of fines in other countries where taxes are set at appropriate levels.

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Riva    1,173

Why doesnt the police catch some real criminal these days?

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DocM    16,534
6 hours ago, theyarecomingforyou said:

>

You say that yet you don't see the same level of fines in other countries where taxes are set at appropriate levels.

 

This isn't other countries, it's the US. Different political, legal and social cultures.

 

Here wasteful and duplicitous spending expands to consume the available funding, regardless of there being other unserved needs. Doesn't matter who's in power.

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+jnelsoninjax    11,934
16 hours ago, Riva said:

Why doesnt the police catch some real criminal these days?

These are not the police, these are city workers whom are empowered as code enforcement.

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DocM    16,534
5 hours ago, jnelsoninjax said:

These are not the police, these are city workers whom are empowered as code enforcement.

 

We once received a violation because our grass was 9 inches long, the limit being 8 inches. Yup, we awoke to see a city Ordinance Officer on his knees measuring the length of our grass, he being on the sidewalk.

 

Nevermind it had rained for a solid week, causing it to grow like weeds and making it impossible to cut (wet).  

 

Rain for a week in Michigan, the "Water-Winter Wonderland" - whodathunkit? Makes s*** grow, dontchaknow?

 

$50 + fees.

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theyarecomingforyou    10,425
12 hours ago, DocM said:

We once received a violation because our grass was 9 inches long, the limit being 8 inches. Yup, we awoke to see a city Ordinance Officer on his knees measuring the length of our grass, he being on the sidewalk.

It's funny how Americans' opposition to taxes has resulted in an even more costly and intrusive form of government. The thing is it's a positive feedback loop: excessive ordinances cause more people oppose taxes and vote for politicians supporting tax cuts, resulting in authorities having to create ever more draconian ordinances to cover the reduced tax revenue required to fund the services demanded by residents.

 

Thankfully I don't have to deal with such nonsense.

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Riva    1,173
23 hours ago, DocM said:

 

We once received a violation because our grass was 9 inches long, the limit being 8 inches. Yup, we awoke to see a city Ordinance Officer on his knees measuring the length of our grass, he being on the sidewalk.

 

Nevermind it had rained for a solid week, causing it to grow like weeds and making it impossible to cut (wet).  

 

Rain for a week in Michigan, the "Water-Winter Wonderland" - whodathunkit? Makes s*** grow, dontchaknow?

 

$50 + fees.

Its almost like a speeding camera on a downhill road giving you a ticket for doing 31mph instead of 30mph. Problem is the law can be taken too literaly

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