Talk about the grammar police! Here’s why you should read your tickets carefully

She fought City Hall — and won. All because of a missing comma.

After nearly a year-and-a-half of legal wrangling, an Ohio woman got her parking ticket dismissed because of a poorly drafted village ordinance, according to the New York Daily News.

Andra Cammelleri arose one morning in February 2014 in her West Jefferson home to discover her 21-year-old Ford pickup was missing from where she’d parked it on the street.

When she called in to report a stolen vehicle, she discovered it wasn’t stolen after all.  It had been towed for violating a village ordinance that prohibits parking certain types of vehicles on the street in the same spot for more than 24 continuous hours.

The ordinance provides that “It shall be unlawful for any person … to park … upon any street … in the village any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle for a continued period of more than twenty-four hours.”

Whoever  drafted the ordinance left a comma out separating “motor vehicle” from “camper,” and on that basis, Cammelleri fought the ticket.

She didn’t own a “motor vehicle camper,” she argued.

The trial court nonetheless found Cammelleri guilty at a bench trial. She appealed.

Late last month, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision. It ruled that “by utilizing the rules of grammar and employing the common meaning of terms, ‘motor vehicle camper’ has a clear definition that does not produce an absurd result.”

The ruling continued, “If the village desires a different reading, it should amend the ordinance and insert a comma between the phrase ‘motor vehicle’ and the word ‘camper.’ ”

When it was all over, Cammelleri said the win surprised her.

“I was told, ‘Don’t fight City Hall’,” Cammelleri said. “I’d never win.”

But she did.

Good thing Anthony Kennedy wasn’t the judge.

 

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