The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held a hearing on a lawsuit challenging an ordinance being enforced in Sandy Springs, Ga., which allows alarm companies to be fined for false alarms generated by their customers. The first challenge to the law was rejected by a lower federal court in 2018.
The Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association (GELSSA), A-Com Security Co. LLP, and Safecom Security Solutions Inc. filed a notice of appeal organized by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), which has managed all aspects of the effort from hiring the law firm to raising funds for the appeal.
“While the vast majority of our work involves a positive partnership with law enforcement leaders, Sandy Springs has been a rare exception,” Stan Martin, SIAC executive director, said. “Sandy Springs sets a bad precedent for our industry and public safety in general, which is why we are working so hard to overturn the ordinance.”
In the district court, GELSSA and the alarm companies argued that this civil fine scheme was not rationally related to a legitimate government interest, and was therefore unconstitutional, because alarm companies do not have a “master-servant” or “principal-agent” relationship with their customers, and are not in a position to supervise, direct or control their actions.
Sandy Springs adopted its first alarm ordinance in 2012 with the goal of reducing false alarm calls into the 911 center. In 2017, it revised the ordinance, placing fines on the alarm companies for the calls, as it is the alarm company placing the call to request public safety dispatch. Since the ordinance became effective, alarm companies have been subjected to tens of thousands of dollars in civil penalties due to alarm users who have caused “false alarms,” which are determined by the city and billed by Cry Wolf Services, the city’s third-party alarm administrator.