6. A Los Angeles man with a personalized license plate that read “NO PLATE” received 2,500 overdue traffic tickets. All the tickets issued for cars with no plate were automatically redirected to him when his car marked “NO PLATE” appeared on the system.
In 1979, Robert G. Barbour, a West Los Angeles sailing enthusiast and hardware manufacturer, applied for personalized plates. The California Department of Motor Vehicles form had space for three choices. Barbour’s first choice was “SAILING” and the second choice was “BOATING.” Since he had no third choice, he just wrote “NO PLATE” below them. Interestingly enough, the third choice was approved.
However, a few days later, Barbour began to receive dozens of overdue notices from all over the state. About 2,500 followed in the next six or seven months. That’s when he realized what was happening. When he wrote to the DMV, they just told him to change the plate. But, he had grown to like his plate and so kept writing to them. Two years later, the DMV issued a notice that the word “none” should be used for citations instead of “no plate.” (source)
7. In 2009, a woman was fined $1.9 million for downloading 24 songs, $80,000 for each song.
On February 21, 2005, Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a Native American woman from Brainerd, Minnesota, downloaded 24 songs by bands such as Aerosmith, Green Day, and Guns N’ Roses on Kazaa, a file-sharing application. She received a cease-and-desist letter from the RIAA in August and settlement offer of $5,000 from Capitol Records. However, Thomas-Rasset declined, and what followed was the first file-sharing, copyright infringement lawsuit by major record labels tried before a jury in the US.
The Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset case lasted from 2007 to 2013 with several trials and appeals, and the fine reached $1,920,000 at one point. In the end, she was found liable and was ordered to pay $220,000. In March 2013, she declared bankruptcy to avoid paying the fine. She also refused the RIAA’s suggestion to make a video about what she did. As of 2016, no one knows if she has paid the fine or not. (source)
8. For every game Michael Jordan played wearing Nike trainers, the NBA issued a fine of $5,000 because they didn’t match the team’s uniform. Nike, however, gladly paid it every time, a total of $410,000 for all the games in a standard season.
Nike released its first design of Air Jordan sneakers on September 15, 1985. But, a month later, David Stern, the NBA Commissioner, forbid Michael Jordan from wearing them during games because of their bold, red-and-black color scheme which was at odds with the jerseys the Chicago Bulls wore. The fine Jordan received, however, didn’t amount to much considering his salary was $630,000 and the $410,000 that adds up over an 82-game regular season was taken care of by Nike. (source)
9. In Finland, traffic fines are proportionate to the person’s income at the time. In 2002, a former Nokia director got himself a fine of $103,600 for speeding at 75 kph (47 mph) in a 50 kph (31 mph) zone.
Nokia’s director of 19 years, Anssi Vanjoki, was caught speeding on his Harley-Davidson motorbike in Helsinki in October 2001. According to Finnish law, Vanjoki had to pay 14 days of his income as a fine. But since Nokia’s share price plummeted back then, his income fell too.
In February 2002, after an appeal, the Helsinki District Court reduced the fine from €116,000 ($103,600 in October 2001) to €5,900 ($5,133 in February 2002). The record for the highest amount of fine before Vanjoki belonged to an Internet millionaire Jaakko Rytsola, who had to pay €80,000. (1, 2)
10. In 2018, a Florida man was given a fine of $30,000 for not mowing his lawn while he was away visiting his mother’s estate for a month and his home is under the threat of foreclosure.
Jim Ficken, a 69-year-old man from Dunedin, Florida, was away in South Carolina to settle his late mother’s estate for eight weeks when the grass in his lawn grew over 10 inches. Unfortunately, his friend who usually mowed his lawn passed away unexpectedly.
When Ficken tried doing it himself, the lawnmower broke down. The staff at the Code Enforcement Board, however, kept adding up a fine of $500 each day while he was away without informing him.
When the same thing happened during another visit to his mother’s estate, the board had put him down as a “repeat offender” and threatened to foreclose on his home. By then, he had had enough. In total, the fine amounted to $29,833.50. Recently, lawyers at the Institute of Justice have taken his case, pro bono, stating nobody should have to lose their house because of tall grass. (source)