Outrageous Costs for Minor Violations
February 3, 2020
Think about this for a moment. 80-year-old Ramona Morales of Indio got a $6,000 bill from the city for a city municipal code violation. Her offense? Her tenants kept chickens in the yard.
It sounds outrageous and it quickly caught Sacramento lawmakers’ attention when the story broke.
The state legislature quickly passed a new law and now cities in California can no longer tack on exorbitant legal fees to settle minor local code violations.
The bill’s sponsor says civil code violations should be settled in civil courts and not subject to heavy investigative and administrative fees from prosecutors.
“Criminal prosecutors should decide what charges to bring solely on what’s just,” says Jeffrey Redfern of The Justice Institute, a 3rd-party conumer advocacy group. “When prosecutors have a financial incentive in a criminal case to run up the bills and impose punitive measures – that violates due process.”
The new law makes it illegal for cities and counties to charge defendants for the legal costs to investigate, prosecute or appeal a criminal violation of a local ordinance.
That’s good news for one Coachella resident. He was hit with a $30,000 bill because he didn’t have the proper permits for a home addition.
To read more about the law’s change, here’s a good overview from NPR.