Since its founding 30 years ago, the Institute for Justice has fought to defend the rights of property owners.  As local governments are faced with budget shortfalls, they are turning to excessive fines and fees code violations to bridge the gap in their budget deficits.  Instead of protecting the lives and rights of their residents, these municipalities and counties are using their residents to make up for shortfalls in their budget and revenue. But budget shortfalls from municipalities should not be remedied on the back of their property owners.

The Institute for Justice is the nation’s leader in litigating against excessive fines and code enforcement abuse. IJ litigation led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Timbs v. Indiana, in which the Court held that the U.S. Constitution’s protection against excessive fines applies to state and local governments.

In 2020, the Institute for Justice published Municipal Fines and Fees: A 50-State Survey of State Laws, which is the first comprehensive accounting of state laws relating to municipal fines and fees and highlights the nationwide issue of fines and fees abuse. Cities and towns using their power to enforce traffic, property code and other ordinances to raise revenue rather than solely to protect the public. This “taxation by citation” creates conflicts of interest, warps police priorities, and violates the rights of ordinary Americans, especially those who don’t have the means to defend themselves in court.

Simply put, police must serve and protect, not ticket and collect.

Code Enforcement

Too many cities have weaponized their municipal codes, giving them an excuse to harass and fine innocent homeowners.

Speed Traps and Impound Rackets

By aggressively enforcing traffic laws, local government can generate revenue from ticketing drivers and impounding their cars.

Excessive Fines Clause

The Eighth Amendment’s ban on imposing “excessive fines” is a vital constitutional protection.

Model Legislation

Model Fines and Fees Reporting Act

Curbing taxation by citation starts by collecting data. This model legislation creates a publicly-available reporting system that tracks all fines and fees activity.

Judge holding gavel in courtroom

Model Driver’s License Suspensions and Revocations Act

Suspending and revoking licenses to collect court debt is a harmful public policy that affects 11 million Americans. Losing a license, even temporarily, jeopardizes a person’s ability to support themselves and their family.

Model Fines and Fees at Sentencing Act

This model legislation requires courts to consider an offenders ability to pay before imposing sentences that include fines and fees. It also offers the option to perform community service or use payment plans.

Fines and Fees Cases

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