Owning a car is a luxury that should not be taken without care; the vehicle is an extension of one's home, and like how one handles his/her house, it should be tended to with responsibility. That is why, in California, Vehicle Code 22651 is in place to give police the authority to regulate, tow and impound vehicles. But just because a car happens to run out of luck and parked in the wrong spot at the wrong time does not mean that it is immediately towed away. The majority of traffic violations do not result in towing. There are specific reasons that officers should consider when to tow a vehicle. According to the California Vehicle Code, some of the common reasons are:
- When a vehicle is left in a public area, it obstructs the traffic.
- When a vehicle reported to have been stolen was found in a public area.
- When the vehicle is blocking the passage of a privately owned driveway.
- When the vehicle is preventing access to a fire hydrant.
- When the driver is arrested for an alleged offense by a police officer.
- There are no proper documents for an illegally parked vehicle (i.e., license plate, registration, etc.).
- When a vehicle is parked or left standing on a highway for 72 or more consecutive hours.
- When the vehicle is parked on a highway, or a portion of the highway, after a 24-hour removal notice.
- Whenever a vehicle is parked or left standing in towing areas.
Officers do not necessarily have to notify the owners or drivers before towing their vehicle away, especially if the car is parked illegally in places where signs warn about towing.
What happens to my car after it gets towed?
After a towed car, it is delivered to a property owned or leased by the government temporarily store towed vehicles, the impound lot. In California, a car usually stays impounded for 30 days before being legally allowed to be sold in an auction. To get it from the lot, the owners and/or drivers should contact the authority for instructions. When claiming the vehicle, the registered owner should present a valid driver's license, proof of registrations, and insurance certificate. In the case of non-registered owners, a letter of authorization from the owner.
Aside from the necessary documents, the owner is also obliged to pay the impound the necessary fees. The said fees would range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, especially if they were not picked up right away. The fees are usually the following fees:
- basic charges (administrative, towing, and transfer charge)
- daily storage (which gets significantly more expensive after the first 24 hours)
- after-hours gate fee (when applicable)
- additional charges (lien fees and the auction fee).
Was I towed legally?
Unfortunately, some people are towing cars illegally. That is called “predatory towing”. Predatory towing is the act of towing vehicles without legal reasons and/or overcharging the fees for release. Fortunately, a law in California protects consumers against illegal towing. Under AB 2210, if a tow truck takes your car on private property, the driver must release your vehicle.
How do I protect myself from predatory towing?
If this ever happens to you or anyone you know, we recommend reaching out to our roster of competent legal defenders. Some of the conditions that can be used to defend the victim of this scheme under the AB 2210 are:
- the one-hour rule – a vehicle must be parked for one full hour before being allowed to be towed unless it is parked in specific areas that should be free from obstruction at all times (i.e., blocking a fire hydrant or a private driveway),
- ten-mile limit – a vehicle cannot be taken to an impound lot that is more than ten miles from where it was towed from,
- the absence of a warning sign – a tow truck can plead to not tow the vehicle if the tow sign is absent from the towing premises.
What would happen to predatory tow companies?
If proven guilty, the operator of the tow trucks in question will be charged with misdemeanor, $2,500, and/or three months in jail.
With the experience of 40 years and more, The Law Office of Raoul Severo can endow you with the best possible way for a fair legal process. And Please feel free to reach us by dropping us a message.
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