City of Seattle v. Long (Majority and Concurrence)Annotate this Case
In 2016, Steven Long was living in his truck. Long, then a 56-year-old member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation, worked as a general tradesman and stored work tools as well as personal items in his vehicle. One day, Long was driving to an appointment when the truck began making “grinding” noises. In July 2016, Long parked in a gravel lot owned by the city of Seattle. Long stayed on the property for the next three months. On October 5, 2016, police alerted Long that he was violating the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 11.72.440(B) by parking in one location for more than 72 hours. Long claimed he told the officers that he lived in the truck. Later that day, a parking enforcement officer posted a 72-hour notice on the truck, noting it would be impounded if not moved at least one city block. Long did not move the truck. While Long was at work on October 12, a city-contracted company towed his truck. Without it, Long slept outside on the ground before seeking shelter nearby to escape the rain and wind. Long contested the infraction and eventually agreed to a payment plan to reimburse the city for the costs of the impoundment. He now argued, among other things, that the impoundment violated Washington’s homestead act, ch. 6.13 RCW, and the federal excessive fines clause. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s conclusion that Long’s truck automatically qualified as a homestead, and that no declaration was required. However, because Seattle had not yet attempted to collect on Long’s debt, former RCW 6.13.070 did not apply, and Long’s homestead act claim was premature. Thus, the Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision that Seattle violated the act.As to Long’s excessive fines claim, the Court held the impoundment and associated costs were fines and that an ability to pay inquiry was necessary. Long showed he lacked the ability to pay the imposed costs.