Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

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cobra2411
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Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by cobra2411 » Mon Jan 16, 2017 5:22 pm

Hi, I would like some help with checking my logic in this matter. I was issued a notice of violation about some unlicensed vehicles on my property. I had dealt with this before as a nuisance and that matter has been decided. I responded and thought they went away.

The municipality, rather than making a "nuisance" ordinance, used their power to enact a property maintenance code and relied on the abandoned vehicle section there. They cited Comm. v Nicely http://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvani ... -4-10.html and said they have the power to regulate the "keeping, parking or storing of unlicensed and unregistered vehicles"

Comm. v Hanzlik http://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvani ... 134-0.html the court looked for the intent of the legislature with granting powers to the municipalities and found limits. Specifically the municipality could not define an automobile a nuisance per se, only a nuisance in fact. The vehicle itself wasn't an issue, it was the conditions that surround the vehicle that could give rise to a nuisance.

The legislature explicitly lists abandoned vehicles under the nuisance section. Abandoned vehicles are also included indirectly by the inclusion of a property maintenance code. I argue that the municipality does not have the authority to pick and choose and it was not the intention of the legislature to grant the municipality the ability to abrogate private property rights. In Nicely, the court stated that "Nicely cites no authority, and we have found none, that holds that there is something inherently special or privileged about motor vehicles..." I agree. There is nothing inherently special that would allow the municipality to abrogate private property rights. I further submit that the legislature knew and understood this which is why vehicles were specially listed as nuisances. Since the municipality does not have the authority to convert a right to a privilege, it can not be the vehicles themselves but the condition surrounding the vehicles that gives rise to the need to regulate.

So... What do you think. Is my logic and reasoning sound here or did I miss something.

Thanks,
David

***This is not a request for legal advice and is simply for study and discussion purposes***
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by editor » Mon Jan 16, 2017 8:15 pm

Hi David,

Your reasoning sounds logical to me. From what you are saying, it seems the law is willing to treat the automobile as a nuisance if an actual danger to the public exists, but does not impute any special nuisance value to the object merely because it's an automobile.

In the same way an old refrigerator or freezer can be a deemed a nuisance if the doors are not securely fastened closed, because a child could crawl inside and become trapped, you should be able to diffuse any claims of nuisance with regard to your automobile by simply locking the doors.

There should be ample caselaw, by the way, specifically on refrigerators and freezers, since I remember that being a big issue at least twenty years ago. You might find value in using that caselaw to offset comparisons in your case.

You might also find my article titled, Municipal Zoning and the Little Guy useful.
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by cobra2411 » Mon Jan 16, 2017 8:39 pm

With vehicles as a nuisance it has been long decided that there is a burden of proof the municipality needs to meet to show how it's a danger to the community. To get around that about 10 years ago they've begun using the property maintenance code where they don't have to show a nuisance in fact exists. Nicely is frequently cited, but he argued it very poorly. I believe if challenged properly it will fall easily.

I use a driver's license and register my cars under duress due to the extreme level of harassment for not doing so. The cars in question have simply been stored, but are old enough to qualify for a permanent antique registration. So I have offered up the carrot in this case, give me enough time to make the registration changes which can take up to 2 months. Typically they offer 20 days to cure. It's a pick your battles thing. The best way to avoid a punch is not to be there. I think we can agree that in today's day and age there is no guarantee they're not going to simply be jack-booted thugs about it.

However, I do believe in being prepared and I am a bit torn. Part of me wants to bring this through the courts and have them decide it because other's can benefit then. In my mind it's clear that they are infringing upon my property rights and circumventing the intent of the legislature by doing this. Legal jujitsu says it's always best to use their case law against them and in this case I've agreed that there is nothing inherently special or unique about vehicles. In other words there is no reason for them to infringe upon my rights because of something unique to an automobile that does not exist in other property. So that takes licensed / unlicensed out of the picture. The courts have already ruled on arbitrary limits of things so I don't see them being able to put a number on the amount of vehicles. Also, we're back to vehicles not being unique and there are no number limits on other property... If I had a bunch of farm tractors there would be no issue because they're not licensed. What makes an automobile special that municipalities can convert a right to a privilege vs a tractor?

Unless I have tunnel vision here, all roads lead back to them showing a nuisance. The legislature put vehicles under nuisances and I doubt their intention was to allow the municipality or other third party to change that.

If it goes down the legal road by intention is to argue for a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. We'll see. I hinted to the solicitor where I was going with my defense and my willingness to remove or register the vehicles if the township would be cooperative on time. Carrot and stick... I do worry that the solicitor will say fight, fight, fight, because he gets to bill, bill, bill...
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by cobra2411 » Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:02 pm

This is interesting and appropriate...

Article 1, section 1 of the state constitution...

"All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness."

Think it was important to the founders of Pennsylvania? :D

Property of course is anything that can be owned and possessed. Motor vehicles are property. Owning and possessing a motor vehicle is thus a protected right... :P
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by editor » Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:34 am

I have a bunch of old cars and trucks where I live. Thankfully it's at the end of a dead-end road, behind a locked gate, and no one bothers me.

A friend used to come to me every so often and tell me, "Greg, the price of metal is way up, you should junk those cars and get the cash!" This was of course followed by his offer to load them up for me, and split the money for his trouble.

Because he's a friend, and there a few times I knew he really needed the money, I let him take one. But when he kept asking, I finally told him,

"Look, I let you take those others because I was doing you a favor. I'm not going to sell any more, and here's why-- When you think metal is up, all that really mean is the dollar got smaller; it takes more of them now to buy stuff than it did last week or last year. Those cars rusting out in my yard don't lose their value as fast as the dollar. Some of them might even be worth a little more over time, if a collector ever wants them. I would rather have those cars in the yard than money in the bank, so please never ask me for another one."

I don't know if he understood or not, but he hasn't asked again, and it's been nearly ten years now.

The point is, putting these kind of restrictions on people is not just really about public safety, it's about envy, and wanting to keep people poor. You or I may look out in a man's yard and see a bunch of junk, but he may see value that helps him get through the tough times. Government doesn't want people to be self-sufficient, they want us to be dependent.
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by cobra2411 » Tue Jan 17, 2017 2:39 pm

I disagree somewhat. While I agree that it's useful and desired by the government to have us weak and dependent I disagree that is the case at the lowest levels. I've found that at the municipal levels there are a bunch of power hungry sadist who view themselves as elite and powerful and enjoy flexing their muscles. It's not that they want you poor and dependent, they want you groveling at their feet. Anything that accomplishes that serves them, even making the people poor and dependent.

This issue started with a dispute with a neighbor. I share a drive with my neighbor. My property was carved out of a rear section of their property including a driveway to the street. The front property has an easement to use the drive. They had given the property to their son who lost it in foreclosure and later was killed in an automobile accident. So even though I could launch the state back at them for violations on their property, I'm resisting out of respect for their loss and because it's just not my style. They are using the state in an attempt to control how I enjoy my property. People often use the state to do their dirty work so they can claim clean hands.

I am preparing a brief in response, depending on how the solicitor / township responds given that I've hinted at making this a property rights issue. Their ordinance is blatantly unconstitutional and thus null and void and conveys no power or authority. If I find their response unacceptable I am going to inform them of this and send them my argument for a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. I'm doing it this way as I still would like to avoid actual litigation. Still, I will be prepared for litigation. I am also trying to paint the township as being unreasonable and overbearing...

I'll share once I get my thoughts more organized. I've learned in writing just to get words on paper, especially if you're not sure how to start or convey your thoughts. Once there you can edit and refine your thoughts. Just a little tip for anyone who's stuck trying to come up with something. Just start babbling and re-read it. Babble some more, re-read... It'll come together.
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by editor » Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:26 am

I like outlines. It was a hard transition for me, many years ago, but very worthwhile.

When I was in grade school and had to write reports, I had a couple good teachers who insisted I first write an outline, then a report based on the outline.

I stuggled greatly with this, and would often write my report and then reverse engineer my outline. One of those teachers always called me out on it, and explained why he knew I'd done it that way.

After awhile though, I learned the value. Writing the outline first helps me organize my thoughts. It starts out like babbling-- I'm really just listing a bunch of bullet points. Then I start organizing the bullet points, sorting them for order and priority. This leads me to a coherent presentation of facts and persuasion, while helping me to stop repeating myself-- something I do a lot of if I don't use an outline.

I agree with you that local government officials are often petty and mean for no good reason than the exercise of their own perceived power. But much of what they are allowed to get away with, I believe, is because of a top-down policy of encouraging poverty and dependence.
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by notmartha » Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:16 pm

I don't have junk cars. I have yard art. Tags are not aesthetically appealing on my yard art. :)

And I have signs similar to this posted.

Anybody knowing whether or not I have tags on the back of my yard art would have to be a trespasser.
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by cobra2411 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:11 pm

Notmartha, :lol:

I am going to have to do that...


Here's a letter to my State Rep. on the issue... The link to Nicely is above, but I attached a copy to my Rep.

Representative Hennessey,

I live in Honey Brook Township and have an issue with the township about some vehicles stored on the premises. I am communicating with the township and I am hopeful that the we can come to an understanding amicably. However, for my own personal knowledge I have questions about the constitutionality of the ordinance.

The applicable section of the ordinance reads in full:

"Only one intact inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicle shall be parked, stored or kept on any premises. A vehicle of any type is permitted to undergo major overhaul, including bodywork, provided that such work is performed inside a structure or similarly enclosed area designed and approved for such purposes. Painting of vehicles is prohibited unless conducted in an approved spray booth."

I question the constitutionality of this. Property rights are of the highest importance in the commonwealth and this is emphasized by the placement of property rights as section one, article one of our constitution. The Township cited Comm. V Nicely (attached) in support of the ordinance and the court there found there was nothing inherently special about motor vehicles.

“Nicely cites no authority, and we have found none, that holds that there is something inherently special or privileged about motor vehicles” (pg 9)

Since I have a right to property and the township hasn’t shown, nor have the courts found that there is anything inherently special about a motor vehicle, license status here is irrelevant. Murdock v Penn found that “a state may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right” as well as “No state shall convert a liberty into a license, and charge a fee therefore.” Additionally, requiring permission (license) for something I already have a right to is simply illogical.

The Township has shown no evidence, nor could I find any that arbitrary limits may be set on the amount of property owned nor is there any evidence that there is any requirement or limit based on operational status. I also find no evidence, nor was any provided that the legislature intended or had the ability to convey the power to any municipality to deprive or otherwise infringe or restrict the property rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth based on these criteria.

The Township elected to use Section 302.8 of the property maintenance code rather than use the nuisance section in this matter as this matter is definitively decided as a nuisance violation (Comm. V Hanzlik 1960). If we compare the two with an example the problem with this becomes clear. Farm tractors of similar size and condition would not be subject to Sec. 302.8 and no violation would occur based on their being stored on the premises. That would result in the unequal application of the law. If however, the township chose to use the nuisance section both farm tractors and motor vehicles would be treated equally.

I believe that the municipality has enough authority to deal with vehicles that become a problem to the community as they have the power to regulate nuisances in fact. In regulating a nuisance in fact, it is the condition or circumstances that cause the violation, not the property itself and thus is not in conflict with the legislatures goal of protection the property rights of the citizens. I believe for this reason the legislature chose to explicitly list vehicles within the nuisance section. That Vehicles are listed in the property maintenance section by inclusion of a third party document does not in any way make them superior or preferred. I don’t believe it was the intent of the legislature for a municipality to pick and choose which sections it wants based on which is more beneficial to them nor do I believe it was the intention to infringe upon property rights. I also do not believe that the legislature would intentionally enact legislation either directly or indirectly that caused a conflict.

Given the above I believe this ordinance is unconstitutional as the license, condition and quantity are not valid reasons to infringe upon property rights. It is invalid and thus unenforceable and that I have no obligation to abide by it.

"No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it." 16 Am Jur 2nd, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256.

Currently there is no citation and I am communicating with the Township in hopes we can come to an agreement. My goal is not to junk up the property, simply to enjoy my hobby. As there is no citation or litigation my questions are purely educational for the furthering of my own knowledge.

I would greatly appreciate your input as my representative on this.

Always grateful for your time and service,

David...
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Re: Unlicensed vehicle issue - PA

Post by cobra2411 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:33 pm

Commonwealth v. Creighton, 639 A.2d 1296, 1300 (Pa . Cmwlth.1994) "holding that subject to its enabling legislation and pursuant to its police power, a borough has the authority to enact laws that it perceives necessary to protect the public health, safety, and general welfare, so long as the goal sought to be achieved is legitimate and the means used to achieve that goal are reasonably necessary and not unduly oppressive".
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