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Working on your car under a shade tree-it doesn’t get any more apple pie than that. If you’re a car enthusiast, and you own more cars than you really need, the parked cars can sometimes spill over onto your lawn. Sometimes in front, and sometimes in the backyard. Either way, it shouldn’t cost you over half-a-million dollars for the privilege. But that is what one man in Sacramento, California, has been ordered to pay. 

Dan Alstatt, a retired 83-year-old resident of Sacramento, has received code violations that over the years have now added up to $573,000. This, for parking cars in the backyard of the house he owns. These weren’t even visible from the front. 

What were his parked cars violations?

Abandoned cars
Abandoned cars on lawns | Getty

The violations stem from more than just “inoperable cars” sitting around. He was also fined for “junk material,” and rotting fruit from the trees scattered behind his house. In California and elsewhere, fruit rats love these conditions. Back in 2014, neighbors complained, the city checked the situation out, and Alstatt was fined. 

A year later, when he contested the violation ruling, the city turned around and sued him. Since then, Alstatt has fought the city in court. Appealed to the California 3rd Appellate Court, it found him guilty as charged. Now he plans on taking it to the California Supreme Court. 

But according to the Sacramento Bee, it is doubtful the court will hear the appeal. That’s because California has already set a precedent for code violations that even exceed this amount as being legal to charge. 

Why did the city charge this amount?

Abandoned cars
Abandoned cars on lawns | Getty

Alstatt began accruing $250 a day charges for each day he was in violation. He was also accessed $5,000 for the state’s legal fees. In arguments in court, with him representing himself, he made statements to the effect that no constitutional laws “operate” on him. Meaning, that the Constitution doesn’t apply to him. 

The specious argument, if it could be applied, would render the entire country lawless. The appellate court countered that besides this claim, there were several other legal claims made that, weren’t actually legal. With this being mostly Alstatt’s main points, the city sued him for noncompliance. 

One final argument made by Alstatt was that to pay this amount, he would have to sell his house. This means he would become homeless. The court dismissed this argument for “failure to provide supporting evidence.” 

Have the parked car fines been paid?

Abandoned cars
Abandoned cars on lawns | Getty

Alstatt is not homeless, but that’s partly because he still hasn’t paid the fine. The backyard is cleaned up now, but it is unknown how the city intends to move forward to get its money. Most cities have codes forbidding junk vehicles and just plain junk piling up around homes because they provide junkyards for that. But sometimes these situations remain the same for years. 

Most cities won’t take the step of actually condemning a house under these circumstances, but it does happen from time to time. The lesson in all of this? If you’re in violation of a city or state code, just get it taken care of. Or you may be the next Dan Alstatt. 


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