Private Property
Matt Powers · July 13, 2016

Ebony Conner, a single mother of five in Cahokia, Illinois, near St. Louis, arrested and briefly jailed for failing to mow her lawn and clean up her yard. She was not even issued a ticket prior to the arrest, and the only explanation she was offered was a complaint from the Village of Cahokia.

“I understand I violated a code. But take the channels, give me a ticket first, make me appear in court. I know there’s gotta be channels other than if you don’t cut your grass, I’m arresting you,” Conner told a local CBS-affiliate.

Conner is not alone in being arrested for failing to mow her lawn. Earlier this year, a 70-year-old woman in Prichard, Alabama was also arrested for not mowing lawn, except the citation she received was for a property she no longer owned. A 75-year-old woman in Riesel, Texas was issued a warrant for her arrest after she was accused of not responding to a letter to appear in court for her failing to mow her lawn.

In Pagedale, Missouri, where IJ has filed a class action lawsuit, there has been a similar abuse of municipal code enforcement. In Pagedale residents can be fined for things like chipped paint, mismatched curtains, and walking on the left side of a crosswalk. In 2013, nearly 20 percent of the city’s revenue came from fines and fees, producing a profit-incentive for law enforcement. From 2010 to 2014, the number of non-traffic tickets issued to residents increased by 495 percent.