Dunedin, a small seaside city outside Tampa, cracks down on code violations, saddling homeowners with massive fines while its revenue grows. In 5½ years, the city has collected nearly $3.6 million in fines – sometimes tens of thousands at a time – for violating laws that prohibit grasses taller than 10 inches, recreational vehicles parked on streets at certain hours or sidings and bricks that don't match.
The Supreme Court ruled in February that local governments can't impose excessive fines. The decision is among the first constraints by the federal government on how much money cities and states can charge people for everything from speeding to overgrown lawns. But the court did not say what should be considered excessive, leaving local governments and residents with a question: How much is too much?
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