For many residents of California, having their car towed can lead to many consequences in addition to the struggle of getting their car back. This report discusses the number and range of costs that are assessed by different cities across California after a tow, the layers of problems that follow a tow, and the groups of people that are disproportionately impacted by tows. The authors include personal narratives, an examination of whether these practices are constitutional, and recommendations for improving this system.
You can read the full text of the report here.
- Statewide, more than one-fourth of tows were executed because the owner had unpaid parking tickets, lapsed registration, or parked in the same place for 72 hours.
- Add-on and administrative fees make the average price people pay after a debt-collection tow over $1100.
- Cities lose money on tows especially when unpaid fines and fees are the reason for the tow.
- Towing cars to coerce payment is often ineffective because a car is a necessary tool for many people to work, and numerous studies have shown that costly fines and fees that are out of reach for people to pay lead to people not paying anything.
- The rule that allows for the towing of any car parked on the street longer than 72 hours disproportionately impacts low-income people because they have less access to off-street parking, especially in urban areas.
- A 2018 review of 26,000 tows in Oakland, California showed that the City’s Police Department towed vehicles more often in neighborhoods in East Oakland where the communities are predominantly Black and Latinx.
- People should not be charged a release fee to receive their vehicle.
- Towing and storing companies should not file liens against vehicle owners for unpaid fines and fees.
- Local governments must ensure that tow hearings are fair and impartial.
Author(s): Jorge Alvarado, Public Law Center, Wade Askew, Legal Services of Northern California, Mari Castaldi, Mike Herald, Courtney McKinney, Itamar Waksman, Wester Center on Law & Poverty, Elisa Della-Piana, Aaron Forbath, Matthew Kovac, Gladys Rosario, Jude Pond, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Rebekah Evenson, Bay Area Legal Aid, Maya Ingram, American Civil Liberties Union of California, Nisha Kashyap, Public Counsel, Shayla Myers, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Miguel Soto, East Bay Community Law Center, Sorcha Evenhouse, Page Uriarte, Alex Enrique, Claire Yin, Deepshekhar Gupta, Don Lee, Analysis Group
Research institution(s): Public Law Center, Legal Services of Northern California, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bay Area Legal Aid, American Civil Liberties Union of California, Public Counsel, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, East Bay Community Law Center, Analysis Group