4th Amendment Project
Private Property

City of Seattle v. Long

Brief Details

William R. Maurer
Managing Attorney of the Washington Office
Mike Greenberg
Date Filed
Original Court
Washington Supreme Court
Current Court
Washington Supreme Court

Steven Long lost his housing and was forced to live in his truck, which he parked on an out-of-the-way gravel lot owned by the City of Seattle. Long’s truck was inoperable and he couldn’t afford to fix it, so the City towed the truck for violating an ordinance banning parking in one location for more than 72 hours. It then charged him more than $500 in impound fees. Long argued that the fine violated the Eighth Amendment’s protections against Excessive Fines, but the lower courts disagreed. On appeal, IJ’s amicus brief urged the Washington Supreme Court to adopt a robust test for whether a fine is excessive, including the circumstances of the offense and the effect the fine will have on the person’s financial status and livelihood. The Court unanimously agreed, holding that the fines imposed on Long violated the Eighth Amendment and adopting a test in which courts must consider a defendant’s personal circumstances in deciding whether a fine is unconstitutionally excessive.