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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Court Addresses Challenge to a Municipality's DUI Impound Fee

We've previously reported on a few cases involving challenges to municipal impound and towing charges. Recently, an Illinois appellate court considered a challenge to a City of O'Fallon ordinance that imposes a $500 charge on a driver whose vehicle is impounded for a DUI offense. Saladrigas v. City of O'Fallon

The Village ordinance imposes the $500 charge in addition to other fees imposed for towing and storage of the vehicle and penalties imposed for the DUI offense. A driver who was assessed this $500 charge challenged the ordinance, claiming it was an unconstitutional administrative fee as it was not reasonably related to the recovery of the Village's administrative costs. The Village argued it was a fine, not a fee, so there was no requirement that the Village establish that the amount was reasonably related to its administrative costs. The circuit court agreed with the Village, but on appeal, the Appellate Court rejected the Village's argument and determined that the $500 charge was an administrative fee, and not a fine. Important to the appellate court was language in the Village's ordinance that identified the charge as a fee, not a fine, and the purpose of the charge was to recoup costs incurred by the Village in processing DUI arrests.

It's important to note that the Appellate Court did not issue any ruling on whether the "fee" was constitutional or not, instead remanding it back to the circuit court to make a determination as to whether the amount of the fee was rationally related to the City's legitimate government interests in recouping costs.  Interestingly, although the court acknowledged that the City was a home rule municipality, it did not seem to take that into consideration in its ruling. It will be interesting to see how this case moves forward in the circuit court, particularly since many municipalities throughout the state impose similar charges on DUI impounds.


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