Constitutional Law

Lawyers Help Low-Income Woman Contest $23,625 NYC Fine for Posting Flyers About Day Care Center

Two New York lawyers have gone to the defense of an immigrant fined $23,625 for posting flyers about her fledgling day care center.

Yasmin Pujols, 45, had paid $250 to take a 45-day training course on opening a city-certified day care center in her home. But she says no one mentioned the potential peril of posting handbills, according to her counsel. When a crossing guard told her she could be fined, she stopped. But the city fined her $75 for each of the 315 she had already posted, resulting in the hefty financial penalty, reports the New York Daily News.

James Bernard, who is representing Pujols pro bono, has filed a state-court suit on her behalf, contending that the fines are excessive and violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Pujols, who supports herself, her mother and a sister on earnings of around $10,000 annually, told the newspaper through an interpreter that there is no way she can afford to pay the stunning penalty.

City attorney Gabriel Taussig sad in a written statement that “We will explain the full circumstances to the court and the judge will decide if the penalties were lawful and appropriate.”

Deputy Sanitation Commissioner Vito Turso noted that the city doesn’t cite those who post notices about yard sales or lost pets, but does send summonses to those responsible for posting flyers for business enterprises. Pujols was assessed the minimum fine of $75 per violation, he noted; the maximum is $200 for a first offense and $300 for subsequent offenses.

Meanwhile, James Baker of the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, who is the other lawyer representing Pujols, said the city sanitation department should be required to issue a summons more promptly. Pujols, he said, got ticketed in three waves, beginning in September and ending in January.

“It’s ridiculous,” he told the newspaper. “If someone had given her a $75 ticket immediately, she would have stopped doing it sooner.”

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