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Monday, June 20, 2016

Municipalities May Be Liable for Attorney Fees And Vehicle Storage Fees Under SB 2261

Many municipalities have enacted ordinances requiring the impoundment of vehicles used in the commission of certain violations identified in section 11-208.7 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code.  Some of these violations include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, operating a vehicle in the commission of a felony, or in violation of the Cannabis Control Act, and operation of a vehicle without a valid license.  Some home rule municipalities have expanded the list of violations subject to impoundment.

While vehicle impoundment under the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code and home rule ordinances has been sanctioned, some courts are beginning to question certain aspects of municipal impoundment ordinances.  For instance the 5th District Court of Appeals recently questioned the appropriateness of the fee charged for vehicle impoundments.  The 3rd District Court of Appeals recently questioned whether an impoundment ordinance is valid unless appropriate signs are posted warning motorists of possible impoundment. 

The Illinois Legislature has now weighed in on the subject.  The Legislature passed SB 2261 and sent it to the Governor for his consideration.

SB 2261 creates a statewide commission to study current towing laws, recommend an appropriate towing program for the state, and review all costs for an owner of an impounded vehicle, the towing company, and the governmental entity impounding the vehicle.

The bill also requires payment of a vehicle owner’s attorney fees and vehicle storage costs “if the Administrative Hearing Officer finds a county or municipality that impounds a vehicle exceeded its authority under this code.”  The bill does not define when a county or municipality “exceeded its authority.”  The legislative summary of the bill states that “exceeded its authority” is something different “than the Administrative Hearing Officer finding no probable cause for vehicle impoundment.”

Municipalities with vehicle impoundment ordinances may want to provide comments to the Governor’s Office before the bill is signed. If it becomes law, municipalities may need to review and change their current practices to comply with any new program requirements recommended by the state commission.

Post Authored by Steve Mahrt, Ancel Glink 


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