A Florida man has been ordered to pay $30,000 in fines for not mowing his grass after a federal judge decided against him in the latest stage of a lengthy legal battle over the unruly lawn. Jim Ficken of Dunedin, Florida has been represented by the Institute of Justice as a prominent example of wildly excessive municipal fines which they claim exist across the country and violate the constitutional rights of those who are targeted.
Thousands in fines for an unruly lawn
Ficken had been in South Carolina tending to his mother’s estate in the Summer of 2018 after she passed away, requiring him to spend much of the season away from his own home.
While he had an arrangement with a man who was hired to mow his lawn while he was away, that man unexpectedly died and, being out of town, Ficken was unable to take care of his own lawn.
Noticing the uncut grass, the City of Dunedin began to automatically fine Ficken $500 every day without giving him any warning or notice.
By the time the city informed him of the issue, Ficken faced almost $30,000 in accumulated fines owed purely because of the status of his lawn.
Ficken, who lacked the money to pay such a large fine, also faced foreclosure on his home with very little hope of accumulating enough money.
According to Ficken, $30,000 is equivalent to five or six years of living expenses for him, meaning that this amount would have a massive impact on his life.
Abusive city officials?
The Institute for Justice came to the aid of Ficken in his attempts to overturn the fines, seeing his case as a textbook example of municipalities taking advantage of citizens with outrageous fines.
By charging such an excessive amount over an issue as minor as an uncut lawn, the Institute argued that the city had violated his constitutional rights.
The City of Dunedin was accused of intentionally taking advantage of Ficken by quietly waiting for the fines to build up to such an extent before informing him that anything was wrong.
The actions of the city could easily be interpreted as local authorities abusing regulations to squeeze large amounts of money out of their citizens over very minor issues.
Lawyers for Ficken are arguing that this is the case and that, by ruling in their favor, the federal judge who decided the case will encourage local governments throughout the country to use the same tactics to get money out of their own citizens.
Ficken and his legal team plan to appeal the decision once again, meaning that the already three year old battle over an uncut lawn will likely be dragged out even more.