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Expo Facto Law

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How would expo facto law apply to the below case: City brings homeowner to court on violation of an ordinance for a nonconforming use. Judge issues specific direction during court proceedings that are in the transcript regarding the nonconforming use to the homeowner and dismisses the case. Homeowner follows judges directions exactly as told to them in court.
City changes ordinance slightly then brings homeowner to court again claiming violation of the same ordinance # for the same nonconforming use (both cases brought criminal). Discussion welcome on how expo facto would apply to this or other types of defense strategy. Thanks.


Senior Member
Ex post facto applies only to criminal laws. It states that a person cannot be tried for actions that did not constitute a crime when s/he committed them. (It applies to the possible sentence for a crime also.) Are the actions prohibited by the ordinance ongoing or did they occur years ago? If they occurred years ago, ex post facto gets you off the hook.

If they are ongoing, you might be able to argue res judicata. This means you argue that this issue has already been litigated and that the judge's order represents a final adjudication on the matter. The city is trying to make an end run around the appeallate process by tweaking the law and bringing a new case. Point this out to the judge and move for dismissal based on res judicata or simply based on general principles of equity that the judge may exercise in his/her discretion. Try to have the case transferred to the initial judge arguing that it is a continuation of the first trial rather than a new case. Toss out the term "judicial efficiency" - the original judge is fully conversant with the issues and facts and can manage the case more efficiently.


Thanks for the reply. You've been very helpful
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non-conforming use

can you tell me more about the non-conforming use?
I have just been to court for a formal "hearing" over a civil infraction ticket issued over a setback issue with my Township.
In my case, I feel that the variance I filed and received back in 1986 for "insufficient lot area" rendered my property lines no longer applicapable, and the inclusion of a deck on my home is consistant with customary improvement in this area. I was issued a permit to construct a deck, and after construction started, the Township Zoning administrator rescinded my permit due to a "neighbor complaint"
The court hearing was a "mess", the attorney for the Township stated my violation as a setback from road problem, the Administrator issued the ticket based on setback from property line. In the spirit of peace making, I agreed to file for a 400.00 variance (which I expect to be turned down). Followup in Court will be end of Oct.

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