Doraville residents file federal lawsuit to fight 'excessive' fines and fees

DORAVILLE, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that four Doraville residents have filed a federal lawsuit against the city, which they say relies too heavily on fines and fees for revenue.

The group says the policy is leading to excessive and unfair tickets.

Channel 2's Lori Wilson spoke with one woman who says she faced jail time at one point for cracks in her driveway.

Hilda Brucker told Wilson that when she bought the house in 1990, the driveway was already cracked. An elderly neighbor told her it had been like that since the house was built in the 1950s.

But in 2016, Brucker was issued three citations and fined by the city and told she had to repair the concrete or face jail time or probation.


Brucker hired a lawyer and the charges against her were eventually dropped.

Brucker still hasn't fixed the driveway. But this week, she filed a suit to help protect others from what she sees as "policing for profit."

"I'm suing for legal precedent, policy change and so that what happened to me, doesn't happen to anyone else in Doraville," Brucker told Wilson.

Attorneys for the Institute for Justice held a news conference outside Doraville City Hall Thursday to announce what they called a major civil rights lawsuit "challenging (the city's) use of fines and fees to balance it's budget."

"The city's policy and practice of using fines and fees to generate revenue is unconstitutional," attorney Joshua House said. "It's unconstitutional because that practice drives municipal personnel and law enforcement to ticket."

Most cities do generate some revenue from tickets, but for those filing the suit, the issue is just how much Doraville relies on that money.

Wilson found that an average city earns 3 to 6 percent of its budget from tickets and fines, according to the Institute for Justice. In Doraville, tickets and fines generate 24 percent of the city's operating revenue.

Brucker's attorneys claim that is an incentive for officials to write tickets and hand out fines for relatively minor offenses.

"That sort of reliance has driven it to ticket people like our clients for things like a stack of wood in their backyard," House said. "Municipal government and law enforcement exist to serve and protect, not to ticket and collect from residents and passers through."

Officials in Doraville declined to comment for this story due to the pending litigation.

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