To Live and Park in L.A.


     LOS ANGELES (CN) - A $63 fine Los Angeles imposes for an expired parking meter, and its doubling if not paid in two weeks - not to mention the $28 "delinquent" fee and the $21 "collection fee" - are so excessive they are unconstitutional, a federal class action claims.
     Lead plaintiff Jesus Pimentel claims that the $175 he had to pay was an unconstitutional "excessive fine," and that the DMV's threat to withhold registration of his car and/or boot or seize it if he didn't pay the $175 - accompanied by the threat of civil litigation, reporting him to a credit bureau and garnishing of his state tax refund - violated the Due Process clause.
     He got the ticket at 3:10 p.m. on 29, 2013, on Eighth Street downtown. He says he had fed the meter enough money to cover the time he expected to park there.
     But apparently not.
     He paid the entire $175 on July 30, because he wanted to register his car.
     The 19-page lawsuit compares the parking fines and additional penalties assessed by Pasadena and Glendale, which are not as bad, ($73.90 for the violation and late fee in Pasadena and $88 for the expired meter and late fee in Glendale.)
     (See today's CNS story on Pasadena's new traffic ticket payment system .)
     Hauling out his calculator, Pimentel's learned counsel Donald G. Norris, with Norris & Galanter, points out that Pimentel's ultimate fine was nearly 175 percent the daily median per capita income of an Angeleno (using 2009 figures from City-Data.com).
     The median per capita income in L.A. that year as $26,096; given 160 work days a year, the daily wage comes to $100.37. Pimentel's $175 fine, then, constitutes 174.4 percent of an Angeleno's median daily wage.
     And with the median per capita income for Latino Angelenos in 2009 $13,542 - or $52.08 a day for 260 work days - Pimentel's fines come to 336 percent of the daily median income for a Latino Angeleno.
     With the minimum hourly wage in California set at $8, a $63 parking ticket for an expired meter consumes an entire day's wages, and then some, once taxes are deducted. Pimentel, in other words, would have to put in three 8-hour days at minimum wage just to pay the lousy parking ticket and late fees.
     The lawsuit does not state how long Pimentel overparked, or where he was going, or how much he fed the meter in the first place.
     Pimentel seeks class certification, declaratory relief, an injunction, and damages, with interest, for violations of the 8th and 14th Amendments; 42 U.S.C. §1983; Article I § 17 of the California Constitution, which prohibits excessive fines; Article I § 7(a) of the California Constitution - its Due Process Clause; costs of suit, attorney's fees, and "such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper."