Industry Appeals Ruling Upholding Sandy Springs’ Punitive Alarm Ordinance

Aug 10, 2020 | Press Releases

Frisco, Texas (August 10, 2020) – Plaintiffs in litigation opposing the City of Sandy Springs’ punitive alarm ordinance have filed a petition requesting an en banc rehearing of their appeal before the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs are seeking a rehearing before the full court of a  three-judge panel opinion that upheld the lower court’s  dismissal of their lawsuit regarding the controversial ordinance enacted by the City of Sandy Springs, Georgia, that fines alarm companies for false alarms generated by their customers.

According to the petition filed with the Eleventh Circuit, “The City of Sandy Springs holds alarm companies strictly liable for punitive fines—reaching up to $500 per fine—whenever their customers trigger a false alarm, which the City has criminalized as a public nuisance offense pursuant to its new Ordinance. The City imposes these fines on Plaintiffs despite there being, no “responsible relation” between Plaintiffs and the conduct of their customers: the alarm users who trigger the false alarms. The City does not provide alarm companies a meaningful hearing before imposing the fine; the City instead fines first and provides an appeals process on the backend that is rife with procedural deficiencies.” The petition argues that for these reasons the ordinance violates Plaintiffs’ due process rights under federal and state law.

The Case Raises a Potential Concern for all Businesses

“This case raises an issue that potentially could impact numerous businesses,” said Stan Martin, Executive Director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), which continues to support Plaintiffs’ position and arguments. “The ruling makes it far too easy for a government entity to hold a business responsible for the actions of its customers even if the business does not have a responsible relationship with the customer’s conduct.

“What is more significant to Sandy Springs taxpayers is that the city has embarked on expensive and needless litigation even though there has never been a showing that fining alarm companies is any more effective than fining alarm owners, which is the norm throughout the country,” said Martin. “The city could have achieved its goal of reducing alarm responses without expensive litigation.”

The Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association (GELSSA), A-Com Security Co. LLP and Safecom Security Solutions Inc. are the plaintiffs in the case. The original challenge to the law was dismissed by a lower federal court in 2018.

“SIAC continues working closely with law enforcement agencies throughout the country to promote the model ordinance it helped create in partnership with leaders in the law enforcement community,” said Martin. “When you consider that the cost of fighting a single bad ordinance can easily run into the six figures, supporting SIAC’s work at the local and national level remains a wise investment.”

“Extreme proposals such as passing customer fines to the alarm companies for payment will be vigorously opposed.  We do support stopping response or requiring verification for law enforcement dispatch when applied only to chronic abusers,” said Martin. “More than 1,000 communities nationwide are currently using the principles of the national model ordinance and that number continues to grow steadily each year.”

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