For almost three years, Andrea Cammelleri had been parking her car on the curb in front of her West Jefferson, Ohio home. She thought nothing of it as there were no signs posted that said she couldn’t. In fact, her neighbors did the same thing.
So, when she was making coffee one morning and looked out the kitchen window, she was shocked to see that her Ford Ranger was gone. She called 911 to make a report that her vehicle had been stolen; the dispatcher informed her that it had not been stolen, but had been impounded for overtime parking.
When she later received the $120 ticket, it stated that she had violated a West Jefferson village parking ordinance. Cammelleri immediately went online to do some research. She found that the ordinance actually read that it was illegal to park “any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle” on a street for more than 24-hours.
Cammelleri went to the municipal office to protest the ticket because of the grammatical error – her Ford Ranger was not a “motor vehicle camper”. She also discovered that 27 other neighbors had had their cars towed on the same night.
The village maintained that the omission of a comma between the phrase motor vehicle and camper did not mitigate her responsibility to follow the law. A court agreed that “anybody reading the ordinance would understand that it was just a missing comma”. Cammelleri was ordered to pay the fine, $166 in towing fees, and court costs.
But not so fast – Cammelleri appealed the decision to the Twelfth Appellate District of Ohio. For as long as the subdivision had existed, people parked on the road, according to her appeal. “Then, on this one day, they just tow everybody? That makes little sense,” says Cammelleri’s attorney.
The appeals court overturned the original ruling and found in Cammelleri’s favor. The judge ruled, in part, that “reading ‘motor vehicle camper’ as one item does not produce an absurd result. If the village desires a different reading, it should insert a comma between the phrase ‘motor vehicle’ and ‘camper’”
What do you think? A victory for punctuation, indeed.