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April 15, 2015

New York State court concludes multiple mandatory minimum fines constitutionally excessive

Thanks to this post by Eugene Volokh, I discovered an interesting New York trial court Excessive Fine ruling in Pujols v. City of New York, No. 103637/12 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. April 2, 2015) (available here). Here is the heart of the ruling concerning an attack on a $11,175 fine for illegally posting 149 flyers advertising babysitting services:

It is undisputed that petitioner violated the relevant Administrative Code provision and substantial evidence supports ECB's determination that petitioner is liable for violating § 10-119 of the New York City Administrative Code, which generally prohibits the posting or other placement of handbills, posters, notices, signs and other written materials on certain public property.  Nonetheless, this Court finds that under the specific circumstances presented herein, the imposition of the mandatory minimum of $75.00 per violation for a total penalty of $11,175.00, amounts to an unconstitutionally excessive fine, and cannot be viewed as solely remedial.

Moreover, this Court, in considering the seriousness of the offense, the severity of the harm caused to petitioner, and the City's objective to deter posting of materials on public property, we find that the fine imposed is "grossly disproportional" to the gravity of petitioner's offense.

April 15, 2015 at 07:57 PM | Permalink

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Comments

What would be more in the ballpark? As someone in the comments flagged, is there any hint?

Posted by: Joe | Apr 15, 2015 10:51:43 PM

Frankly, I think a $75 fine for hanging up a flyer should be excessive. The whole thing is stupid. But, either way, once you get past a dozen or so, the rest are just superfluous. It's likely someone ignorant of the law, but, even if not, they aren't really all that much more culpable.

Posted by: Erik M | Apr 17, 2015 7:42:04 PM

Would forcing sex offenders to pay a registration fine be a violation of the 13th amendment by "Compelling a person to perform labor unless it's PUNISHMENT FOR A CRIME".

After all you need to work to pay a fine, in fact there was a bill in Illinois to offer sex offenders the option "of community service hence labor as an alternative to a fine"!

Posted by: Morgan | Apr 19, 2015 4:21:57 AM

There are many folks sitting in jail for failing to pay debts and folks being charged for indigent defense and other costs.

Posted by: Morgan | Apr 19, 2015 4:22:39 AM

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