In Pimentel v. City of Los Angeles, the Ninth Circuit found the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to Los Angeles’ parking fines. Following Timbs v. Indiana, a recent SCOTUS decision that applied the excessive fine clause against the states, Pimentel extends the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on excessive fines to routine municipal fines. The Court upheld a decision that a $63 parking fine was not grossly disproportionate to the offense of parking too long. Pimentel leaves open the possibility that a person could plead financial hardship on a case-by-case basis.
In a concurring opinion, Judge Bennet argues the Eighth Amendment should not apply to parking fines at all. He argues “Cities that meter on-street parking may … be acting in a similar capacity as the owner of a private parking garage” and therefore, like a private landlord, “may freely choose what rate it charges for parking, holdover and late fees included.” He worries “the potential for federal court litigation is endless,” and applying the Eighth Amendment to parking violations “trivializes” constitutional rights litigation. But because the parties did not dispute whether the Eighth Amendment applied, Judge Bennet concurred.
More challenges to various municipal fines are sure to follow.