Innocent Homeowners Fined $10,000 Per Day File Class-Action Lawsuit
In 2018, after a wildfire destroyed their Southern California home, Corrine and Doug Thomas did their best to find a silver lining and turn that nightmare into a dream: They packed up their remaining possessions, and bought a modest home nestled in Northern California’s fabled redwood forests.
Unfortunately, the Thomases’ dream quickly turned into a terrible new nightmare.
Just six days after moving in, they received a notice from the county fining them $12,000 per day because the previous owners had used the barn to grow cannabis over two years before the Thomases bought it. The county, which requires a lengthy permit process for demolitions, gave them just ten days to tear it down. Panicked, they hired a building engineer, who estimated that the demolition would cost more than $180,000—which was money they don’t have. As of today, they have accrued more than $1 million in fines.
By the county’s reasoning, anyone with a greenhouse, cleared garden, barn or any other structure that could be used to grow cannabis is assumed to be growing cannabis and fined at least $10,000 per day. Humboldt accuses property owners of cannabis-related offenses without any proof or process. The county rarely bothers to conduct even the most cursory investigation. If the inspector had visited the Thomases’, for instance, he would have found an empty barn with a few tools. But Humboldt’s inspectors have admitted that they frequently rely on satellite images alone to issue fines.
That is why the Thomases—along with a group of other Humboldt property owners—have partnered with the Institute for Justice to file a class-action lawsuit to put an end to the county’s unconstitutional practice of levying outrageous fines against innocent individuals.
How Your Donation Helps
- Your contribution enables us to represent our clients at no cost to them—and to stand with them no matter how long their cases take. And when we win for our clients, we secure precedent that protects the rights of all Americans.
- IJ receives no money from the government. Our work is powered by nearly 10,000 supporters across the country who believe in the Constitution and the ideals it enshrines. 70% of our funding comes from individuals like you.
- There is no better investment for defending liberty than IJ. We have litigated more than 300 cases on behalf of more than 1,000 people and turned once obscure issues like civil forfeiture and eminent domain abuse into subjects of national outrage. And IJ is a good steward of donor money, having received Charity Navigator’s top rating 20 years in a row.
Sign up to receive IJ's biweekly digital magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking updates about our fight to protect the rights of all Americans.