The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Provo City's Unconstitutional Citation Fees

Not long ago, I received a parking violation for parking I what I thought was my own driveway with my Geo Metro on a Sunday night.  The '95 Metro hatchback--belonging to the shortest of classes of cars--was covering the thoroughfare of the sidewalk on our cul-de-sac in a quiet suburban Provo neighborhood.  The next morning to my astonishment, I discovered that even though passageway around the car had been left, a ticket had been issued at 2am at a time when no one walks the neighborhood.  The police officer issuing the citation did not attempt to notify me of the violation (I was home) nor was I aware of the Provo City code 9.31.010 (1) prohibiting such behavior.

Rather incensed, I decided I would protest the ticket in person but couldn't do so because my work schedule had me commuting out of the county for a couple of weeks.  When I took my ticket in to protest I discovered that my $30 parking violation had morphed into a $90 bill!  You see, according to Provo City, parking violations are designed to double after 5 days (days, not even business days mind you) and triple in 11 (see: Penalty Schedule). 

In the 8th Amendment of our Constitution we are protected against "excessive fines".  I would assert that Provo's doubling and tripling of a fine so quickly is the very thing against which the Constitution was written for to provide us protection.

In essence, fines should be commensurate to the crime.  By doubling any fine, the city is de facto arguing that the crime committed by not paying a citation in 5 days is equal to the crime itself.  By tripling the fine in 11 days, the city takes the stance that it is twice as bad not to pay the citation in 11 days than the original crime.  The stances Provo city is forced into by such an unconstitutional position is absurd.

Let's contrast the city's unconstitutional practice with other city practices of late fees which do not seem excessive (see Provo City Consolidated Fee Schedule):
  • Items checked out at the Provo library are not due for 3 weeks.  After that a 10-cent per diem charge incurs.
  • A Provo City Business license is obtained for $150-$475.  The late fee is $25.
  • Provo youth sports vary in cost but $30 is typical.  The late fee is $5.
In all the above cases, the resident has ample time to respond to the original charge whereas a traffic citation is due in 5 days.  What would be reasonable and indeed constitutional is to allow a citizen 30 days to pay a citation and then to impose a collection fee to cover the city's costs of sending out a collection notice. 

Other than other localities which abuse their citizens with similar unconstitutional excessive citation fees, there is no other example of any late fee doubling after 5 days.  Could one imagine doubling your income tax bill after 5 days?  Your property tax bill?  How about tripling your credit card late fee on the 11th day?  What if softball cost $90 because you were 11 days late?  Your triple your utility bill or the late fee on your rent?  These are so repulsive and intrusive into the freedoms we cherish.

Why then do we allow Provo City to shame the 8th Amendment to the Constitution and unecessarily place us in bondage through unconstitutional law?