Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Minnesota Towing Statute And Its Many Flaws


If you need to fight towing charges, here is a link to the statute in Minnesota:

https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/statutes/?id=169.041

And here is the wording of the statute itself. (This statute was revised quite recently. You should always, always, always check to make sure a statute hasn't been recently revised before you go into court banking on the wording of the statute)

My critique of the statute is below. This is a layman's critique. I am not licensed by any State Bar and not qualified to give legal advice.
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169.041 TOWING AUTHORIZED.

Subdivision 1. Towing authority. For purposes of this section, "towing authority" means any local authority authorized by section 169.04 to enforce the traffic laws, and also includes a private
towing company authorized by a local authority to tow vehicles on behalf of that local authority.

Subd. 2. Towing order required. A towing authority may not tow a motor vehicle from
public property unless a peace officer or parking enforcement officer has prepared, in addition
to the parking citation, a written towing report describing the motor vehicle and the reasons for
towing. The report must be signed by the officer and the tow driver.

Subd. 3. Four-hour waiting period. In enforcing state and local parking and traffic laws,
a towing authority may not tow, or allow or require the towing of, a motor vehicle from public
property for a parking or traffic violation until four hours after issuance of the traffic ticket or
citation, except as provided in this section or as provided for an unauthorized vehicle in section
168B.04.

Subd. 4. Towing allowed. A towing authority may tow a motor vehicle without regard
to the four-hour waiting period if:
(1) the vehicle is parked in violation of snow emergency regulations;
(2) the vehicle is parked in a rush-hour restricted parking area;
(3) the vehicle is blocking a driveway, alley, or fire hydrant;
(4) the vehicle is parked in a bus lane, or at a bus stop, during hours when parking is
prohibited;
(5) the vehicle is parked within 30 feet of a stop sign and visually blocking the stop sign;
(6) the vehicle is parked in a disability transfer zone or disability parking space without a
disability parking certificate or disability license plates;
(7) the vehicle is parked in an area that has been posted for temporary restricted parking (i)
at least 12 hours in advance in a home rule charter or statutory city having a population under
50,000, or (ii) at least 24 hours in advance in another political subdivision;
(8) the vehicle is parked within the right-of-way of a controlled-access highway or within the
traveled portion of a public street when travel is allowed there;
(9) the vehicle is unlawfully parked in a zone that is restricted by posted signs to use by fire,
police, public safety, or emergency vehicles;
(10) the vehicle is unlawfully parked on property at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International
Airport owned by the Metropolitan Airports Commission;
(11) a law enforcement official has probable cause to believe that the vehicle is stolen, or
that the vehicle constitutes or contains evidence of a crime and impoundment is reasonably
necessary to obtain or preserve the evidence;
(12) the driver, operator, or person in physical control of the vehicle is taken into custody
and the vehicle is impounded for safekeeping;
(13) a law enforcement official has probable cause to believe that the owner, operator,
or person in physical control of the vehicle has failed to respond to five or more citations for
parking or traffic offenses;
(14) the vehicle is unlawfully parked in a zone that is restricted by posted signs to use
by taxicabs;
(15) the vehicle is unlawfully parked and prevents egress by a lawfully parked vehicle;
(16) the vehicle is parked, on a school day during prohibited hours, in a school zone on a
public street where official signs prohibit parking; or
(17) the vehicle is a junk, abandoned, or unauthorized vehicle, as defined in section
168B.011, and subject to immediate removal under chapter 168B.
Subd. 5. Towing prohibited. Unless the vehicle is described in subdivision 4, a towing
authority may not tow a motor vehicle because:
(1) the vehicle has expired registration tabs that have been expired for less than 90 days;
(2) the vehicle is at a parking meter on which the time has expired and the vehicle has
fewer than five unpaid parking tickets.
Subd. 6. Private property. This section does not restrict the authority of the owner of private property to authorize under chapter 168B the towing of a motor vehicle unlawfully parked on the private property.
Subd. 7. Damages. The owner or driver of a motor vehicle towed in violation of this section
is entitled to recover from the towing authority the greater of $100 or two times the actual damages sustained as a result of the violation. Damages recoverable under this subdivision include but are not limited to costs of recovering the vehicle, including time spent and transportation costs.
History: 1989 c 256 s 1; 1990 c 503 s 1; 1992 c 580 s 1; 1994 c 536 s 19; 1995 c 137 s
10-12; 2005 c 56 s 1


In regard to Subdivision 3: The "four hour rule" is frequently violated, and paperwork faked up all over the place. Tow truck drivers are unscrupulous and want to get as many tows as possible. We need a video sting operation to show these sharks in action, otherwise what will a citizen say?

"Oh, I looked at my watch, and it was only 3 hours after the time on the tow tag. No, really, it was!" The fines for violating this Subdivision need to be much more severe than the petty fines in Subdivision 7, which are so minor they make it well worth the risk. Deliberately towing a vehicle in violation of Subdivision 3 should be GRAND THEFT AUTO.

In regard to Subdivision 4 (1), "Snow Emergency." Yeah, it snows in Minnesota in winter. That can't possibly be an emergency requiring the suspension of civil liberties. The many ways to revise the concept of a so-called "snow emergency" are a much bigger topic.

In regard to Subdivision 4 (5), "Stop sign." The statute not only requires being within 30 feet of the stop sign, but one must be "visually blocking" the sign. The "visual blocking" aspect is routinely ignored, however.

In regard to Subdivision 4 (6), "Disability parking." There is one interesting piece of case law on this, which is State v. Kortkamp (633 N.W. 2d 863--Minn.App. 2001). In that court case, Kortkamp fought a battle of principal over whether he had parked in a handicapped spot when he merely parked (partially) in the yellow striped zone painted on the ground adjacent to the disability parking space.

The court rejected a load of Kortkamp's arguments--that he shouldn't be found guilty because he didn't know his car was partially on the yellow striped zone, that the lack of a handicapped person trying to use the space was relevant, that the statute was unconstitutionally vague--but ultimately gave Kortkamp a victory because the statute in question really said nothing about the yellow striped lines and whether these were part of the no-parking zone.

The lack of case law on traffic matters is really notable but, then again, it's almost always more cost effective to just pay an unjustified ticket rather than fight all the way to the appellate level where the decisions of the court become enshrined as case law.

In regard to Subdivision 4 (6), "Posted for Temporary Restricted Parking." Neither 12 nor 24 hours is sufficient. Towing Utopia suggests 72 hours, weekends and holidays not included. The state statute should be revised to include personally warning the owner of the vehicle by telephonic and/or electronic communication prior to towing.

In regard to Subdivision 4(7), "Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport. Well, look who was powerful enough to get their entity written right into the state statute. Would that citizens had such power! Towing Utopia suggests owners of vehicles illegally parked at the airport must be personally warned 48 hours before towing, by telephonic and/or electronic communication prior to towing.

In regard to Subdivision 4 (13), "Five or more traffic citations." Needs revision. Should be 7 or more within the Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, where citations are handed out like candy and "booby traps" are laid for the unwary.

In regard to Subdivision 4 (16), "School zones." Towing utopia suggests "this shall not apply to vehicles bearing stickers or insignia from the particular school. It shall be assumed the vehicle belongs to a parent or school employee who must tend to a child."

In regard to Subdivision 6, "Private property." Abuses are rampant. Considerable reform is needed here.

In regard to Subdivision 7, "Damages." The minimum amount of damages needs to be revised. When were these set? In 1988? I should look into that. Furthermore, how is the cost of one's "time" defined? Is it my current hourly wage? Is it nothing for an unemployed person? Is it minimum wage?
Is it some standard amount?

Some good case law is needed here, some challenges to the way things are done. The vague and minor damages clause encourages abuses by towing companies...not that they've ever needed much encouragement.

If you have experience with any particular aspects of this statute, or suggestions about changes and reform, submit your ideas.

10 comments:

bill said...

Johhny:

I'd like to chat with you about your knowledge of posting requirements from private property. I filed an action against a tow company from an apartment complex that had no visible signs, charges $280/tow. Is there a statute for posting requirements? email: rbguy1@hotmail.com.

Anonymous said...

My friend was recently towed by my townhome association after she parked in front of my house. I am furious. I was told that if I were to take them to small claims court, I would be well positioned to win because of something along the lines of anti-covenance laws. Is this true? Or does the private property towing rules allow my association to freely tow cars?
email:jodiwinkelman30@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I've got a case where the private property clearly had contradictory signs posted -- there were multiple signs that said we should have been OK to park there -- and we were towed immediately after being parked there for an hour. We have photo evidence of the contradictions. I'd be interested in talking to you about this: hanne_dog@hotmail.com

JorDunn said...

My car was recently towed from my apartment complex because it did not have current tabs on the license plate due to them being lost in the mail. The towing company said that in Burnsville, a car in a apt complex parking lot is required to have the stickers on the license plate. Do they have to run the license plate at all before towing?
email: jordunn@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you know anything about the laws for towing handicap vehicles? I recently left the state and was unable to retain new tabs for my car before I left. I was informed I have received ticket(s) for expired tabs. I also have a handicap sign displayed on my rear view mirror. I am not due back into town for another couple of weeks...do you know if they can tow my car?
Email~ Barkt@comcast.net

MickeyN said...

I get a kick out of all you that complain that your car was towed. As an owner of a PRIVATE parking lot in the uptown area of Minneapolis, I have lost revenue and customers that did not have anywhere to park ON MY PROPERTY because someone thought they where intitled to park whereever they choose. It is my property and I should have a right to tow a vehicle I don't want on my property. As far as cost... insurance for a tow truck is hundreds of dollars a month, workmans comp, maintance, wages, ect. $250.00 does not go far at all. And besides, the cost should be high to prevent you A-Holes from parking were you don't belong again.
What would you do if someone parked in your driveway, blocking you in so you couldn't go to work or whatever?
Think about the true victims here.

Anonymous said...

Dear MickeyN...
I get a kick out of a lot that DIDN'T have a sign stating no parking. Now wha? wha? Then teh A-hole didn't have time to talk to me that night. The next day he gave me from noon-1 to pick up my car. That is not sufficient time to get my vechicle, by law it should be 4 hours !!!!!!! do you do this to people?

Anonymous said...

can they tow you if construction is going on and they post "no parking 7 to 7" but don't specify am or pm? what a nightmare

Anonymous said...

Wow, apparently my car is junk because it's older than three years.

According to 168B.011 DEFINITIONS.

Subd. 3. Junk vehicle. "Junk vehicle" means a vehicle that:

(1) is three years old or older;

(2) is extensively damaged, with the damage including such things as broken or missing
wheels, motor, drive train, or transmission;

(3) is apparently inoperable;

(4) does not have a valid, current registration plate; and

(5) has an approximate fair market value equal only to the approximate value of the scrap
in it.


Yeah, that's a rule that says to me, "protect the really rich and screw everyone else".

Anonymous said...

For one Mickey, some places are charging whatever they want; such as in the case of Budget towing. I think we can all agree that someone should be towed off of private property, but should there be a limti as to what they can charge? I'm currently in touch with local government in regards to putting a price ceiling on such a business. The government gives the tow truck industry a liscense to seize someone elses private property. In turn, the government should be able to regulate prices.