A proposed class action alleges that Suffolk County, New York violates its constituents’ rights by permitting its police department to charge alarm system owners excessive fines for false alarms.
According to the case, Suffolk County established a rule in 2015 that requires residents and businesses to obtain a permit from its police department in order to use alarm systems. If an alarm is triggered due to mechanical failure, malfunction, or misuse, the owner is purportedly charged a fine by the police. The suit explains that the fees increase with each additional false alarm occurrence beginning at $100 and going up to $500.
“The alarm fee program is nothing more than a means of generating revenue for the County of Suffolk,” the case asserts, pointing out that the fee amounts are “far greater” than the county’s cost of responding to false alarms.
Moreover, the suit claims alarm owners aren’t given an effective method for appealing a fee other than sending the police department a written notice, which the lawsuit argues violates their right to due process. The case adds that the police department isn’t required to record how it comes to a decision on an appeal, nor is it given any rules or criteria to follow.
The plaintiff, a Suffolk County restaurant, appealed a $1,410 false alarm fee notice in July 2018, the complaint says. The county supposedly never responded with a decision and, instead, filed a small claims action against the business to collect the fine. The court awarded the county with $1,710, which, the suit argues, is “grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the conduct Defendant alleges it is seeking to deter and punish.”