Being a homeowner can be extremely rewarding, but it can also come with some serious setbacks. After a woman in Florida received a $165,000 fine for simply parking in her own driveway, she knew it was time to get to the bottom of it.
Living The Simple Life
Florida can be a paradise to some, but others simply tolerate it. For Sandy Martinez, she had dreams of bigger things.
Her home was an utter nightmare being too tight to fit anyone who walked in.
Underpaid And Unhappy
Similar to many people in her area, Sandy was not earning the wage she thought she deserved.
Living paycheck to paycheck came with many setbacks. She couldn't always pay every bill, so she had to decide which one was more important each month.
Difficulty In Owning A Home
The housing market is one of the most competitive in the United States. While Sandy was fortunate to own one, it wasn't the greatest.
Also, she wasn't alone. She lived with her mother and three daughters in one small house.
Everyone Has A Car
Sandy and her three daughters all owned their own cars, which was an accomplishment for the family.
However, it could sometimes be inconvenient to have four cars parked in a small driveway.
A Tight Fit
Since there were four cars and only one driveway, two of the cars would sometimes have to be parked on the lawn.
This was about one foot over the pavement line.
The Fines Start Coming
Sandy could not believe her eyes when she received an alarming letter in the mail.
She was informed that a $250 fine would be placed on her, the homeowner, because of how the cars were parked in the driveway.
Trying To Take Care Of It
While Sandy was furious over the fine, she did what she could to get things right.
She called for an inspector to come and make sure the family was parking correctly.
The Waiting Game
Sandy waited on her porch for the inspector, but no one ever showed up. Even after countless voicemails, no one got back to her.
This made her think that the fine was taken care of and the matter was settled.
The Lantana Law
The city of Lantana in Florida has a law that states, "All off-street parking spaces, including driveways, but not including parking spaces located in swale areas as permitted by section 17-34, shall be asphalt, concrete or black, and shall be hard surfaced and in good repair in compliance with town codes."
However, Sandy's driveway had very limited space.
More Fines Are Delivered
Soon, Sandy forgot about the fine and she and her family went back to the ways things were.
The city soon delivered them a couple more fines. One was for a patch of cracked pavement in the driveway and the other was for a damaged fence from a storm.
Dealing With The Unfair Fines
In Sandy's mind, she knew it would be best to fix the issues, so there wouldn't be any more fines.
Even with her limited time, she was able to wire some money to get professionals to fix her pavement and fence.
An Urgent Notice Awaits
While these fines seemed ridiculous to Sandy, she did her best to get everything handled.
A year later, she received an urgent notice. This would be the fine that took her over the edge.
Getting Charged Every Day
Even though Sandy fixed all the issues she was fined for, no inspectors came to see her progress.
This led to her being charged $250 per day by the city. She had no idea this was happening all this time.
Sandy and her family had lived in that house for 17 years, so it was appalling that all of a sudden they were receiving these pricey fines.
Then, she got out her phone to call someone whom she thought could take care of this.
Sandy had heard of The Institute for Justice after learning about their work in helping people who were put in unfair and catastrophic situations by big government.
She knew they would be the perfect fit for her predicament.
Going To Court
Sandy explained what happened to The Institute for Justice and they knew they had to take on her case.
Next, they would be taking the city of Lantana to court.
The Trial Begins
Sandy prepared as much as she could with her lawyer. The city of Lantana simply brushed off the fact that Sandy had requested an inspector, but never got one.
Now, the city had another demand for her.
More Fines For Sandy
The city of Lantana requested that Sandy pay an extra $65,000 for the cracked driveway and broken fence.
Sandy was flabbergasted because she paid the fine the first time and had these issues fixed by professionals.
Even though she had photos and receipts to prove she had fixed everything, the city would not lighten up.
Her lawyers weren't going out without a fight. After a long few days of testimony, a city representative wanted to settle.
They Wanted More Money
Sandy looked at the settlement proposal and all it did was reduce her $165,000 fine to $25,000.
This only seemed fair to the city. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she quickly ripped the paper up.
Ready For The Next Steps
Sandy knew what the city was doing was totally unfair and she didn't want this to happen to anyone else.
She and her lawyer talked to every news outlet and posted on social media as much as they could to spread the word about what was happening.
Sandy Won't Give Up
Sandy stood at the front of her house as the news vans came by to tell her story from beginning to end.
She was adamant that she would not pay a single penny because she knew the opposition was wrong.
Doing What's Right
Sandy wanted to prove a point. She believed people should be free to mange their property without government control.
What she was doing didn't harm anyone, so the fines did not make sense.
Should She Sue The State Of Florida?
Sandy's lawyers tried to talk her into suing the state for these bogus fines, but she wanted to make her issues public.
She held a press conference in front of her house to get the word out.
Words From Sandy
At the press conference Sandy said, "I've been living her for 17 years now and I'm being fined over $160,000 for parking on my own property."
She still had more work to do.
Why The City Was Wrong
At the press conference Sandy also talked about how she sent many voicemails to the city asking for an inspector and received no response.
The city refused to use Sandy's testimony as evidence.
Hatching A Plan
Sandy had some more tricks up her sleeve with the help of her lawyers.
She spoke to news stations across America and was able to find a voicemail of her calling for an inspector to use as evidence.
Her End Goal
By finding a recording of her voicemail to the inspector, Sandy was hoping for a declaratory judgement from the court to support her lawsuit.
Her end goal was to get these fines to be deemed unconstitutional.
Justice For All
Sandy had a few reasons why she went ahead with suing the state of Florida.
First, she wanted the city of Lantana to admit to their wrongdoings. She also wanted their actions to become illegal, so they couldn't threaten anyone else ever again.
Getting Support From Others
As soon as Sandy spoke out about her situation, plenty of people across the United States gave her a ton of support and encouragement.
They thought it was honorable for her to go through so much trouble to get this resolved.
Some Disagreed With Sandy
There's two sides to every issue, so it was only natural that some people sided with the city.
They believed that if there was no law, the city would turn into total chaos.
Problem With The Driveway
Those who opposed Sandy thought that having four cars in a small driveway could be considered an eyesore.
They said the city was right to fine her in order to keep the area clean and have a booming economy.
The Lawsuit Continues
The trial is still ongoing for Sandy and she's highly anticipating the court's final decision.
As of right now, things seem to be going in Sandy's favor. Taking a stand can be daunting, but Sandy proved why it's sometimes necessary.