Can You Go to Jail for Not Getting a Building Permit?

Building a structure without a permit (with exceptions on the meaning of structure under the California Building Code) is a misdemeanor in most California local entities. Usually, the punishment for a misdemeanor under most municipal codes includes jail time. Let me choose two California cities at random: Sacramento and El Cajon to illustrate this point:

Sacramento Municipal Code section 

1.28.020 Criminal sanctions—Misdemeanors and infractions.

  1. It is unlawful for any person to violate any provision or to fail to comply with any of the requirements of this code, including any administrative order issued hereunder. Any person violating any of the provisions, or failing to comply with any of the requirements of this code, including an administrative order, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, except where it has been provided by state law or this code that the violator shall be guilty of an infraction. Any person convicted of a misdemeanor under the provisions of this code shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or not less than five hundred dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both fine and imprisonment; provided that violations of Chapter 13.10 of this code regarding unlawful dumping shall be punishable by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both fine and imprisonment.

El Cajon Municipal Code:

1.24.010 Designated violations-Misdemeanors and infractions.
A.    It shall be unlawful for any person to violate any provision or to fail to comply with any of the requirements of this code. A violation of any of the provisions or failing to comply with any of the mandatory requirements of this code shall constitute a misdemeanor except that notwithstanding any other provisions of this code, any such violation constituting a misdemeanor under this code may, in the discretion of the attorney having prosecutorial functions, be charged and prosecuted as an infraction; and with the further exception that any violation of the provisions relating to parking, operation of bicycles, operation of motor vehicles, and use of freeways, highways and streets by animals, bicycles, motor vehicles or pedestrians shall constitute an infraction.

B.     Any person convicted of a misdemeanor under the provisions of this code, unless provision is otherwise made in this code, shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, or by both fine and imprisonment.

So, in both of these randomly chosen California cities, punishment of a misdemeanor shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both.

So, do people go to jail for building without a building permit?  Probably not.  In the linked case, in the news today, the sentence was 200 hours community service, three years informal probation, and $14,191 in restitution, with an additional restitution hearing set.

That case involved a celebrity (or at least celebrity-adjacent) and a solid lawyer.  But perhaps the notoriety of the case informed its outcome (meaning the prosecutor was a little more zealous). And still, no jail time.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708
Advertisements

Neighbors, Google Maps and Disputes

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I have been involved in a number of neighbor disputes, long-running and costly.  But this is a new one.

You should definitely click on the article, but a neighbor in Washington State mowed the shortened form of an expletive in his grass with an arrow towards his neighbor so that it would appear on aerial photography.

What laws does this violate?  I cannot think of any off-hand.

Can anyone think of any legal reason that the neighbor cannot do this? I’m not sure it would violate any sign code on earth, and if a code enforcement entity tried to enforce it, it would run up pretty hard against the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Reply in comments if you have any thoughts on the subject.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

Code Enforcement Gone Wild

I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino and the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands. Along with another Deputy, I advised what was then the Code Enforcement Department in San Bernardino.  The City of Redlands had different code enforcement issues than the City of San Bernardino, but code enforcement was an important part of my job in Redlands.

We were not on the leading edge in San Bernardino (everything we did was pioneered at larger cities), but we tried to employ as many code enforcement tools as possible. We were never successfully sued in a code enforcement case while I was there.

However, now that I represent citizens, I see all kind of ticky-tack things that other entities do.  Here is an article from the Salt Lake Tribune

“Ogden tells dad to take down his kids’ cardboard castle because it’s ‘junk'”

Now, this is in Utah, but most cities and counties in California have a similar ordinance that prohibits junk, trash, and debris in your front yard.  However, just because it’s technically illegal doesn’t mean that the City should cite for it.

Looking at the link from the story, this is the City of Ogden ordinance:

 

12-4-2: WASTE MATERIALS OR JUNK; PROHIBITED ON PREMISES:

A. Prohibition: It is unlawful for any owner, occupant, agent or lessee of real property within the city, to allow, cause or permit the following material or objects to be in or upon any yard, garden, lawn, or outdoor premises of such property:

1. Junk or salvage material;

2. Litter;

3. Any abandoned vehicle or inoperable vehicle.

In California, our ordinances tend not to be as vague as this code section.

Does a cardboard castle even qualify as “junk” or “litter?” If it were in California and I were reviewing a notice (which I believe I did sometimes in Redlands) or a citation (in San Bernardino), I would probably turn it down.

As I teach code enforcement officers in training, just because something can be cited doesn’t mean it should be.

I think the reaction by the resident was the right course of action.

“Had he not received the letter, he was planning on taking the castle down soon anyway. But after receiving it, he now plans to keep it up until just before the penalty.”

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

More On Constitutionalist Nonsense

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

One of the more relatively popular posts on this website is this post on  Constitutionalists.

From time to time, I run across them in either my Code Enforcement or my Civil Rights practices.

However, I don’t wish to debate the issues.  If you have a code enforcement issue, you must realize that the government has police powers to deal with code enforcement issues. The police powers are in the California Constitution:

“A county or city may make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws.” (Cal. Const., art. XI, § 7.) Often referred to as the “police power,” this constitutional authority of counties and cities to adopt local ordinances was described by the Supreme Court in Candid Enterprises, Inc. v. Grossmont Union High School District (1985) 29 Cal.3d 878, 885, as having the following broad scope
“Under the police power granted by the Constitution, counties and cities have plenary authority to govern, subject only to the limitation that they exercise this power within their territorial limits and subordinate to state law. Apart from this limitation, the police power of a county or city under this provision is as broad as the police power exercisable by the legislature itself.” 85 Cal. Op. Att’y Gen. 21 (2002).

This is not up for debate. 

That does not mean that the police powers are unlimited. In particular, code enforcement often does not follow the law, whether it is the City’s own processes in the municipal code, a charter provision, California law when applicable, or the California or United States Constitution.

 

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

Abusive Code Enforcement

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I have begun to notice a pattern in complaints about code enforcement agencies lately.

One is that certain cities (especially large charter cities) regarding what they want out of code enforcement. They used to want to use code enforcement tools to eliminate blight and come into compliance.  Now, it seems that many cities want to generate revenue from code enforcement instead of compliance.

The second pattern is that code enforcement is abusing their discretion.  In order to make money, little infractions become major code enforcement violations.  Dormant trees in the winter become unmaintained landscaping. A burnt patch of summer grass becomes lack of landscaping.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

 

Garage Sales and Yard Sales (and permits) in the Cities of Highland, Colton, Rialto, San Bernardino, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Redlands, Yucaipa and unincorporated San Bernardino County

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

People want to know how to get yard sale and garage sale permits in the East Valley, and they find this site because of this article about the City of San Bernardino’s yard sale ordinance.  Therefore, here is a chart to give a basic (but not complete) understanding of the rules and regulations regarding yard sales in the East Valley, here defined as the Cities of Colton, Rialto, San Bernardino, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Highland, Redlands, Yucaipa and unincorporated San Bernardino County such as Muscoy, Mentone, Oak Glen, Devore, Arrowhead Suburban Farms, Devore Heights, and Del Rosa.  Per the City Clerk of Loma Linda, there is no yard sale ordinance in the City of Loma Linda as of 10/17/2012.  Note also that homeowners associations (HOAs) probably have additional restrictions (particularly East Highlands Ranch) which you should look into.

City/Unincorporated Permit Required Permit Cost Where? Duration
Colton Yes $2, except charity, nonprofit, religious Finance Department 3 d, 8am-8pm
Grand Terrace Yes (Except Exemptions) $5 Finance Department 3 d, 8am-8pm
Highland Yes $7 Finance Department 3 d, 8am-8pm
Loma Linda N/A N/A N/A N/A
Redlands Yes $2.50 Treasurer 3 d or 2d each over consecutive weekends; 8 am-8pm
Rialto Yes (Except Exemptions) $5.40 Finance Department 3d, daylight
San Bernardino No (anomoly regarding Estate Sales) N/A N/A 3d, daylight
Yucaipa After 1st sale $2.50 (sales 2-4) Front Desk, City Hall 3d, 8am-8 pm
Unincorporated San Bernardino County No (See SBCC section 84.25.030(e) unless exceed standards of 84.10. N/A N/A 3d, 8am-5 pm
City/Unincorporated Frequency Display Signage Exemptions Ordinance Codified At Violation
Colton 1/quarter Not in PROW During, onsite Court sales Ord 1483 (1975); 0-3-1989 (1989) Colton Municipal Code Chapter 5.45 Misdemeanor
Grand Terrace 2/yr Not in PROW 2 onsite, unlit, 4ft area, 5 day limit, not on PROW, trees, fences, utility poles, removed at end Court sales, charitable, nonprofit, religious Ord 35 (1980) Grand Terrace Municipal Code Chapter 5.40 Infraction
Highland 3/12 mo Safety 1 onsite doublesided, 6 ft area, 5′ tall, 24 hours before until end. Court sales Ord 239 (1998) Highland Municipal Code section 5.04.370 Infraction
Loma Linda N/A N/A N/A N/A None N/A N/A
Redlands 3/12 mo Not in PROW, safety, only during sale Court sales Prior Code secs 24001-10; Ord 2684 (2007), 2779 (2012), Redlands Municipal Code Chapter 5.68 Infraction
Rialto 4/calendar yr only first weekend in March, June, September and December Not in PROW, front or side yards 2 onsite, 4ft area, 4directional signs, prohibited in PROW, >864 sq in., with permission of property owner. Nonprofits, Ord 1416 (2008) Rialto Municipal Code Chapter 5.69 Infraction; misdemeanor for <3/yr
San Bernardino 12/yr only on 3rd weekend of mo Not in PROW, safety, only during sale 3 onsite unlit 24 hr prior until end; 4 Directional 2 sq ft  on private property w/consent Estate sales as to frequency nonprofits as to frequency Ord MC-1344 (2011) San Bernardino Municipal Code Chapter 8.14 Infraction/misdemanor (woblette)
Yucaipa 4/12 mo Not in PROW 1 onsite, not in PROW Court sales Ord 102 (1992) Yucaipa Municipal Code Chapter 5.22 Infraction
Unincorporated San Bernardino County 4/yr Not in PROW 2 onsite, 4ft area, 4 directional signs, prohibited in PROW, 864 sq in., w/permission of property owner. None Ord. 411 (2007) San Bernardino County Code  Chapter 84.10 Infraction; misdemeanor for >3/yr

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. BE SURE TO CHECK WITH THE INVOLVED CITIES FOR CURRENT LAW AND FEES.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

City of San Bernardino returning California Mobilehome Parks Act responsibility back to the State of California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Yesterday, at the October 1, 2012 meeting of the Mayor and Common Council, the council voted 6-0 (with Council member Wendy McCammack absent) to lay over for final adoption an ordinance repealing San Bernardino Municipal Code Chapter 15.55 and returning responsibility for enforcing the California Mobilehome Parks Act to the State of California through the Department of Housing and Community Development.  A substitute motion proposed by staff to transfer responsibility to the code enforcement division was withdrawn.

When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, I had to review every mobilehome notice of violation before they were issued. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that I was hired about a month after the City’s closure of the Cypress Inn Mobilehome Park and the Valente Duran letter.

Because of cut backs related to the City’s bankruptcy, the staff responsible for the inspections was cut.   The move to return responsibility to the state will save about $100,000 according to the staff report, a rather small amount of the City’s budget.

During the roughly sixteen minute discussion, City Attorney James F. Penman said that the need for local inspections was great, that the condition of the City’s mobilehome parks had deteriorated in the last ten to fifteen years, that he didn’t know the solution, because he was confident that code enforcement did not have sufficient training to do the job.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708