Court Tosses Truck Owner’s Parking Citation Because Of A Missing Comma

It pays to read everything carefully — or rather, you might not have to pay a fine if you’re as sharp-eyed as one Ohio woman. She ended up having a parking citation tossed by an appeals court, all because she noticed there was a comma missing in the local law.

As anyone who has ever written a sentence knows, punctuation is of the utmost importance. And in one Ohio village, English teachers are likely sighing and shaking their heads at a grammar mishap involving the local law on parking regulations.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the 12th District Court of Appeals overturned a parking violation [PDF] for a woman living in West Jefferson. She’d been convicted in municipal court for leaving her pickup parked on a village street for more than 24 hours.

But she pointed out that the municipal ordinance prohibited “any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle” from daylong parking.

Her truck, she said, is not a motor vehicle camper. It is a motor vehicle, which would’ve been covered if the law had a comma where it should’ve.

The village argued that it was just a typo and therefore didn’t invalidate her violation. The trial court upheld that view, saying that when reading the ordinance in context, it unambiguously applied to motor vehicles and “anybody reading [the ordinance] would understand that it is just missing a comma.”

Grammar won the day, however, after the court sided with the truck owner.

“If the village desires a different reading, it should amend the ordinance and insert a comma,” Judge Robert A. Hendrickson wrote.

Oh, snap.

Justice Insider: Missing comma gives judges pause [Columbus Dispatch]