Some small towns, cash-strapped in this poor economy, are trying to recover costs by passing ordinances for bizarre fines. For example, molesting butterflies will cost you $500 in Pacific Grove, Calif., and leaving holiday lights up past February 2 will set you back $250 in San Diego. Here are some of the more notable fines from recent months:
Language, please! The residents of Middleborough, Mass., don't appreciate foul language. In fact, the town—about 50 miles south of Boston—recently passed an ordinance outlawing public swearing, making the utterance of curse words an offense punishable by a $20 ticket. The ordinance doesn't specify which words are banned, but it does require the curser to be yelling the profanity—simply cursing in conversation to another person won't result in a fine. "The cursing has gotten very, very bad. I find it appalling and I won't tolerate it," Mimi DuPhily, a member of the town's beautification committee and a key proponent behind the law, told the Wall Street Journal.
Shhh ... Keep quiet. Throwing a party in Boston? You might want to keep it down. A new ordinance proposed by Boston's City Councilor Sal LaMattina could place a hefty fine on unruly partiers. If the ordinance is passed, police called to a loud, "unruly" scene could issue residents a $100 fine for a first offense. Police called to the same party twice could then issue the party's host a $300 fine. These fines would also be given to the property owners, unless they can prove they were trying to reduce the noise. "I'm hoping that we can sit down and come up with a strong ordinance to send a message that tenants have to be responsible to their neighbors," LaMattina told BostInno.
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Pull up your pants. A pair of saggy pants can cost you in Albany, Ga. In 2010, the city passed an ordinance banning pants or skirts that sit more than three inches below the top of the hips, exposing skin or underwear. The ban applies to both males and females. Violators pay a measly $25 fine for their first saggy-pants offense, but the fine can shoot up to $200 for a second offense. The ordinance allows violators to put in 40 hours of community service in lieu of the fine.
Don't forget to mow the lawn. In Massapequa Park, N.Y., an unkempt lawn can wallop your wallet. The town passed an ordinance in June that mandates if your lawn isn't cut, you can face a $250 to $1,000 fine for the first offense, $2,500 for the second, and up to $10,000 for the third offense. Town officials said they passed the law in an effort to maintain strong home prices and keep residents healthy. Poorly maintained lawns are also an issue with foreclosed homes. A man in Arlington, Texas, was fined earlier this year for not mowing the lawn of a home he had already been evicted from due to foreclosure.
No feeding the turkeys. Certain wild animals pose a threat to human safety, but wild turkeys? Apparently, wild turkeys have become overly aggressive in one South Jersey town. The Hainesport Township Council in Burlington County passed an ordinance in July that bans the feeding of wild turkeys, a crime punishable by a fine of up to $2,000. The wild birds, which can weigh 15 to 20 pounds, have been reportedly attacking joggers after becoming desensitized due to people offering them food. "Most towns are troubled by geese, but in our town, we have people complaining about turkeys," Township Solicitor Ted Costa told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Watch where you're going. Laws preventing texting while driving were passed years ago, but texting while walking? Texting while walking might seem innocent, but it can lead to reckless injuries, like when people accidentally wander into construction zones. To curb those kinds of accidents, the town of Fort Lee, N.J., started issuing $85 fines for such careless walking this past spring. "It's a big distraction. Pedestrians aren't watching where they are going and they are not aware," Thomas Ripoli, chief of the Fort Lee Police Department, told ABC News.
Tell your pooch to pipe down. Think your dog is a yapper? In Los Angeles, you might have to pay for his excessive barking. The L.A. City Council passed an ordinance last year that outlawed loud barking dogs, charging the dog owners $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second, and $1,000 for a third if a hearing conducted by the Department of Animal Services determines the dog's bark is a disturbance. A dog's bark is considered fine-worthy if it continues for 10 minutes or more, or intermittently for 30 minutes or more within a three-hour window.
Does your town charge any bizarre fines?