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Being sloppy can net you prison time. South Carolina woman Linda Ruggles learned this lesson the hard way. She was recently jailed over her messy yard.
Ruggles, 53, was cited for a "clean lot violation" by her town. The penalty was $480.
Ruggles was unable to pay the fine. Her photography business faltered in 2008 due to the economy. She soon fell behind on her bills, including her mortgage and taxes. She also faced foreclosure.
Ruggles wanted to fix up her house before the economic downturn. That's why there were packages of shingles on her roof. They are unopened. Her driveway is also filled with various debris and scrap metal. The 53-year-old collects the materials. She sells them to pay bills.
She was fined in 2010 after her neighbors complained. They claimed that Ruggles' property was driving down their homes' values. A judge ordered her to pay up or face ten days in jail.
Authorities say that Ruggles didn't pay within the 90-day deadline. She also did not show up in court for her scheduled appearances. Ruggles was arrested on January 5 after a year of back-and-forth, according to MSNBC.
Ruggles says she couldn't pay the fines because of her financial situation.
Could this happen to you? Many municipalities have similar "clean lot" rules. These rules are meant to ensure properties remain free of excessive debris. This way the area remains clean and sanitary. Violations of these rules may result in penalties. The specific fines or punishments will vary depending on your jurisdiction.
Luckily for Linda Ruggles, she was released early this week. Strangers also offered their support after news broke that she was jailed over her messy yard. A contractor and landscaper offered her their services for free.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.