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Monday, January 16, 2012

Municipalities and Administrative Towing Fees



A number of Illinois municipalities have enacted ordinances that authorize the imposition of an administrative fee when a vehicle has to be towed and impounded due to the arrest or detention of the owner or driver for violation of a particular law or ordinance.  For example, an ordinance might authorize the impoundment of a vehicle in a DUI arrest or when the vehicle has been used in the commission of a felony.  Many of these ordinances impose a $500 fee when a vehicle has to be towed and impounded.  That administrative fee is in addition to the actual towing and impoundment costs that also must be reimbursed.

Until recently, these ordinances were not expressly authorized by state statute.  However, effective January 1, 2012, the Illinois Vehicle Code expressly authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances imposing impound fees in accordance with the new statute.  625 ILCS 5/11-208.7.  The statute provides that a local ordinance must comply with the provisions of this new statute in order to be enforceable, although there is no express home rule preemption.  The statute also sets out the bases for which a municipality is authorized to tow and impound a vehicle, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, operation of a vehicle in the commission of a felony, and driving with a suspended or revoked drivers license, among others. 

The statute also establishes certain procedures for the impoundment and release of vehicles.  These provisions include a requirement that notice be sent to the owner/lessee of the vehicle at the time the vehicle is towed.  The municipality must also provide notice of an administrative hearing to the owner, lessee, and any lienholder of record within 10 days after the vehicle is impounded.  That hearing must be conducted no later than 45 days after the notice is mailed.  The administrative hearing must be conducted by a licensed attorney as hearing officer, who is required to issue a written decision at the conclusion of the hearing. 

Recently, a number of class action lawsuits have been brought against Illinois municipalities challenging the imposition of similar administrative towing fees.   The lawsuits claim that these fees far exceed the actual costs of administering the towing and impounding of a vehicle, and that the procedures for towing and impounding the vehicles violate due process rights of the vehicle owners.

It remains to be seen how the new statute will affect the outcome of these lawsuits, particularly since the pending lawsuits were filed prior to the effective date of this statute and the challenged ordinances do not have the benefit of express statutory authorization. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.

2 comments:

  1. It is a damn shame that these municipalities charge excessive fees, especially in poor neighborhood that they know residents do not have money for this. No one wants their vehicle towed. Then the police do not even notify the owner of the vehicles to let them know that their vehicle has been towed. The towing company and the municipality make money off of every vehicle that is towed. This is a travesty of justice.

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