Sunday, November 14, 2010

Company Towed Veterans' Vehicles In Violation of Indiana Law

WISH-TV last week reported that a group of veterans had their car towed from a private lot last during the Veteran's Day parade. The veterans had apparently parked there in previous years without being towed. Thursday though they arrived back from the parade finding their cars towed. The towing company hit the veterans up for $235 to get apiece to get their cars back.

According to the report:
The towing company says they were well within their legal right. 24-Hour News 8 crews confirmed there are "Permit Only Parking" signs all over the lot on Illinois and St. Clair streets.

However, the charge to get their cars back is $235. The city said the towing company is within their rights to charge that much.


"A-Mass Towing intends no disrespect to any veteran or their families, but we have an obligation to monitor and protect the private property of our clients,” the statement said.

Kate Johnson with the city’s department of code enforcement says she's heard the concerns about towing companies. She says the city does not regulate how much a private towing company can charge.

"There are (currently) 24 businesses that are licensed, and we are certainly open to exploring whether or not a towing company maybe require that we regulate them via a license," Johnson said.

It is true that there is no law charging how much towing companies can charge, at least that I can find. That's a problem because this is not a situation where someone with a towed vehicle can shop around for the best price. They're at the mercy of the towing company to get their car back.

However, it was illegal for A-Mass Towing to tow those vehicles in the first place.

Indiana law, in particular, IC 9-22-1-15, requires a vehicle that is left on private property to be tagged with a notice that it is going to be towed if it is not removed within 24 hours. IC 9-22-1-16 then allows for the removal of the vehicle by the private property owner if the owner has not removed after 24 hours. IC 9-22-1-18 lets a police officer remove the vehicle after 48 hours.

Indiana law provides an exception to the 24 hour rule if there is an emergency or the vehicle is interfering with business operations. Obviously that doesn't apply if a store is closed.

Here's another thing people don't know. The posting of a no parking/towing sign has no legal effect whatsoever. There is no exception to the 24 hour rule for property owners who post signs.

I had the same thing happen to me. When I went to Traffic Court last year, I found the tiny lot filled to capacity. I parked at a Dairy Queen just down the road, which wasn't open and has a huge lot. An hour or so later I came back to find my car towed. I sued Dairy Queen and the towing company in small claims court and got my $200 towing bill back because it wasn't tagged for 24 hours.

Now I'm not saying the law is necessarily fair or right for private property owner. I could see the situation where people are constantly having their private lot used for parking on the weekend and that could present a problem. But those who claim the veterans should know the rules are guilty themselves of not knowing the rules.

Nonetheless, I don't have a lot of sympathy for these towing companies. The way towing companies "monitor" private lots to jump at the chance to tow vehicles and then charge folks an arm and a leg to get them back is a big racket that needs to be stopped.


Indy Student said...

This is very interesting. I often go into Broad Ripple on the weekends. Most of the parking lots are used by the landlords to charge for parking, but two of the larger ones (across the street from McDonalds and Kroger lot) don't. You'll usually see a few cars get towed each night even though the businesses by these respective lots have long since closed when the bars start doing their business.

I'm guessing they too don't tag the vehicle before towing. It's like these companies either don't know or don't care about the law.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Virtually no one knows the law. Occasionally you will see vehicles tagged with yellow stickers with the warning they have to be moved within 24 hours, but that's rare.

Indy Student said...

On another note, some Organizing for America-like group referenced you in their press release on the parking deal.

Torry Stiles said...

The provision in the Indiana code that protect property owners is further down the page:

"Information Maintained by the Office of Code Revision Indiana Legislative Services Agency
IC 9-22
IC 9-22-1-16
Towing vehicle from private property
Sec. 16. (b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), in an emergency situation a vehicle may be removed immediately. As used in this subsection, "emergency situation" means that the presence of the abandoned vehicle interferes physically with the conduct of normal business operations of the person who owns or controls the private property or poses a threat to the safety or security of persons or property, or both.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.10. Amended by P.L.130-1995, SEC.2; P.L.108-2001, SEC.4; P.L.104-2005, SEC.6; P.L.191-2007, SEC.12; P.L.54-2009, SEC.8."

The "emergency situation" clause allows a property manager to remove vehicles blocking dumpsters, parked in Fire Lanes, curbed in their lot with a "For Sale" sign, belonging to the shoplifter who just left in the paddy wagon, is parked on the lawn after crashing into the magnolia bush at 3AM... and, yes. trespassing on a private parking lot that requires a permit or is set aside for the lot owner's business.

Without this provision the state would, in fact, be requiring that every property owner extend at least 24 hours of free parking/storage to any vehicle that could be placed on the property.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Read my post more closely. I talked about the emergency provision in the statute. Surely you aren't suggesting. every time a car is parked in an empty business lot of a closed business is an "emergency" justifying towing. The language you quoted disputes that suggestion that the "exception swallows the rule" as we lawyers says.

The issue with the veterans was their cars were parked in a lot whose business was closed. That requires 24 hour tagging.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Again, I'm not saying the statute should not be more flexible in letting private property owners tow vehicles. But the law is the law, like it or not. Your suggestion that because there is an "emergency" exception to the 24 hour tagging rule that that exception wipes out 24 hour tagging rule, which specifically applies to towing cars from private property, makes positively no sense and wouldn't have a chance in court.

Torry Stiles said...

The lot itself is a business that rents parking spaces 24/7.

.... and surely you are not suggesting that if I park on private lot five minutes before business hours begin that my vehicle may remain there for 24 hours. Were that the case then there would be no need for many of the downtown parking lots that charge for parking. One would only need to be sure to have parked one's car at any business not yet open for business hours and then return at the end of the workday. No business owner, apartment manager or private citizen with a driveway would be able to protect himself.

Indy Student said...

Torry, in this specific case, the parking lot is a lot owned by a business that was simply not in use. It was not a lot that was being rented out for the weekend to charge for parking like what several lots do during large downtown events.

Torry Stiles said...

As for the issue of the signage being meaningless... on that you are somewhat correct. One does not need specific signage to protect one's right to one's property.
Fortunately for property owners Indiana does not discriminate - the right to protect your property from trespassers is extended to those who do not want (or cannot afford) to put up signs, walls, locked gates, armed guards, etc. There can be no assumption of a "right" to park a vehicle anywhere one pleases simply because one can get the vehicle onto the property. The state and local municipalities specifically preserve their right to fine and punish property owners who allow semi-trucks, trailers and "For Sale" vehicles to be kept on their property. This right to equal protection extends to private homes. There can be no assumption of a "right" to park in a private driveway or yard.

It comes down to a property owner's rights to protect private property for his free and legal usage. The empty store lot in Broad Ripple does not want to incur the liability for vehicles left on their property after business hours. The strip mall that attracts the southside cruising crowd doesn't want the trash they bring. The Arby's restaurant near the Lucas Oil Stadium does not want their lot packed with folks attending the game and denying parking to Arby's customers. The small lot near the 500 Festival or Veteran's Day Parade route, or Mini-Marathon route, or Festival of Lights ceremony, or downtown fireworks display, etc., shouldn't have to hire a security guard to keep the lot clear for their invited guests.

Paul K. Ogden said...


"and surely you are not suggesting that if I park on private lot five minutes before business hours begin that my vehicle may remain there for 24 hours."

Apply the law. The law is the vehicle has to be tagged for 24 hours before being towed, unless there is an "emergency." Does an emergency provision in the statute apply, e.g. is the vehicle interferring with busines operations? If not, then absolutely you have to tag the vehicle and wait 24 hours to tow in the example you cite above.

It appears you simply don't like the 24 hour tag law. Fine, go to the legislature and get the law changed. I would agree that the law isn't 100% fair to private property owners and needs to be tweaked. (Obviously if a driveway is being blocked by a parked vehicle, that would be an emergeyc allowing towing.) But neither is it fair that unscrupulous towing companies prowl lots of closed businesses, towing cars from otherwise empty lots and then hold those cars hostage until the car owner pays over some inflated towing fee. That's undoubtedly exactly why the legislature made the practice illegal.

If you're so confident what you're doing is legal, towing these cars in violation of the 24 hour tag rule, please by all means give my name out to the people you tow. I'd be more than happy to file a class action to force the towing companies to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in towing fees they've gotten over the past several years from a clearly illegal practice.

Possibly the towing companies could start complying with the law? Just a thought.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Torry is simply making policy arguments that the law should be changed. (Though his notion that a property owner is liabile for a damage to car left on their lot without their perjmission is a major stretch.) He has no ammunition though when it comes to the fact that a law already exists.

The law was undoubtedly enacted because of the unscrupulous practices of towing companies. Is the law well-balanced Probably not. But Terry has no argument for the fact that the law does exist and is being regularly violated by towing companies.

If you don't like a law, you go to the legislature and get it changed. Until then towing companies need to comply with the law.

Cato said...

Looks like that Torry is up to some no good.

In Indiana, the rubes are all to willing to yammer that hateful excuse for thinking, "the law is the law," when a citizen is screwed by the law. When a citizen gets a rare protection from the law, the rubes are all too eager to excuse the law and find another means of screwing the citizen, claiming that the screwing is deserved, and whatever is deserved ought be the law.

The law says 24 hours, but good luck finding one of our corporofascistic courts to side with the citizen over corporate need and the desire to see someone punished.

Bitter people here.

Cato said...

Torry, regarding the "protection" you so suspiciously seek for a property owner who isn't using a lot and won't use it for hours or days later, there is nothing to stop the property owner from recovering for good old common-law trespass. Of course, he'll have to prove some actual damages, and these are much less than the dirty, corrupt, slimeball towing charges.

The property owners currently have all the protection they need. Absent an emergency, 24 hours is fine.

Torry Stiles said...


Paul is simply making policy arguments that the law should be changed. (The notion that a property owner is liable for damage to car left on their lot without their permission is very real and has been a very touchy subject for several shopping centers where vehicles have been stolen or damaged.) He is absolutely correct though when it comes to the fact that a law already exists.

The law was enacted because of the needs of property owners to protect themselves from trespassers while keeping the property accessible to their customers and invited guests.

Is the law well-balanced? Probably not. But Paul has no argument for the fact that the a property owners' rights do not exist. While vague, the interpretation of "emergency situations" must favor the property owners' rights to protect their private property. If they do so with gates, guards or grabhooks is up to the individual property.

If you don't like a law, you go to the legislature and get it changed. Until then One cannot assume the right to trespass on private property.

(this is fun... I could do this all night)

Torry Stiles said...

Cato - It would probably surprise you to learn that not all property is owned only by fascist corporations. The "emergency situation" clause specifically protects the private individual and the small business who does not have the resources to gate off a parking lot and post guards.

Interestingly, we agree that the issue is the citizen getting screwed here. Without the "emergency situation" the average citizen has no recourse but to give away 24 hours worth of free parking or storage to anyone who pulls onto their property.

Defining an "emergency situation" is what seems to be at issue here. In this case the term is determined by the property owner; quite simply, "I don't want that vehicle on my property. I cannot find the driver to remove it. I want my property cleared for ME to decide its appropriate usage."

Cato said...

Torry, you're a nitwit. You distorted Paul's post, and you ignored a key element of mine, specifically the matter of gifting parking to anyone. As is elementary to propagandists, you ignore that which refutes you and keep repeating the point you wish to advance.

There's no talent in shallow posts such as yours, merely a willingness to be dishonest.

If you have no desire to argue fairly or properly, I have little desire to treat you as a gentleman.

Torry Stiles said...

Well ... that didn't take long ... the name-calling came quickly and the "Cato" person fired the first, second and third shots.

Have fun.

Greg said...

I actually live in the building with this parking lot behind it. The "woman" who "owns" this parking lot is nothing more than a scam. There is actually no paperwork to prove that she or her "sons" (that frequently charge for parking on special event days) own this lot. There is some serious funny business that needs to be investigated with this story.

Greg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.