The problem begins when miniscule local governments have no tax base to pay the bloated costs of their administrations. Rather than balance the books by consolidating with neighboring cities and eliminating redundant services, these governments have turned to treating their citizens like ATMs. In many Missouri towns, their first idea was to take money from nonresidents passing through by means of excessive traffic tickets—in other words, highway robbery. But when the state government put limits on traffic ticket revenue to stop this practice, the local governments turned against their own constituents.

Here’s the game plan these towns follow:

  • First, they set a target for how much money they intend to raise with fines.
  • Next, they look to the city code, which is often filled with absurd and detailed requirements, ensuring that everyone becomes guilty of something.
  • Then, they go out and fine the first people they see (especially those who are unlikely to fight back), until they have their money.

Not only is this immoral and unjust—it’s a violation of your rights as an American.


If you or someone you know has been the victim of excessive fines, please take action and report it to the Institute for Justice!

What’s Going On in Pagedale?

Hungry for revenue, the tiny municipality of Pagedale, Missouri, has resorted to extortion—fining its mostly impoverished residents arbitrarily and excessively. The “high crimes” for which Pagedale residents are cited include:

  • Having mismatched curtains.
  • Walking on the left-hand side of a crosswalk.
  • Wearing pants below one’s waist.
  • Having holes in window screens.
  • Having a barbecue in front of a house.

The Institute for Justice has stepped in to defend Pagedale residents—some of whom have accumulated thousands of dollars in such fines and are facing financial ruin—by fighting these unconstitutional tickets in court.