Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 12, 2008

Ordinance Provision Prohibiting Storage of Boat and Trailer Unconstitutionally Vague

Following complaints from neighbors, the defendant was charged with violating the Code of the Town of Webster, NY for parking his boat and trailer in his front yard on his driveway. The Ordinance provides, in part, “No boat, house trailer, camp trailer or mobile home of any kind shall be stored in any front yard in any residential district.” The defendant argued that while he did park the boat and trailer on his driveway at times, he did not “store” them in contravention of the Code. He asserted that the word “stored” meant something of longer duration than simply temporarily parking the boat. Since the Code did not define the word “stored,” the defendant argued that the section was unenforceable due to vagueness.

The Court said that it would be “legislating from the bench if[,] it arbitrarily established a time period that constituted storage.” The court noted that the local law provides no guidance as to the meaning of the word “stored,” and that reasonable persons could disagree as to what constitutes “storage.” Concluding that the defendant established beyond a reasonable doubt that this section of the Code was unconstitutionally vague for failing to provide an objective standard as to what constitutes storage, the Court dismissed the enforcement action finding that the defendant’s due process rights were violated.

People v. Pethick, 864 N.Y.S.2d 901 (J.Ct. Town of Webster, 10/6/2008).

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