Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Towed Car Misplaced 4 Days In Alpharetta, Georgia (A Sub-Blogosphere Horror Story) photo

Haven't heard of the sub-blogosphere? Google the word. The sub-blogosphere exists, and that's how I learned about this incident in Forsyth County, Georgia, where life moves at a slower pace and it takes FOUR DAYS for a woman to locate her towed vehicle...

It's my understanding the sub-blogosphere is that area of the blogosphere which is less creditable than regular blogs. Anonymous comment threads linked to blog entries, for example, purporting to provide further information about an incident. THAT would be the sub-blogosphere.

A lot of predatory towing horror stories can be found in the sub-blogosphere. I sort of came upon this one, and then I found the lovely picture of an abandoned barn near Alpharetta. This area of Georgia is off the beaten path, and yet predatory and abusive towing anywhere needs to be exposed.

So here is what happened. A woman named Angie Bradley was pulled over by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Department. The officer noticed a pink 2007 license decal and ran the plate, which said the registration was active but had "no valid insurance." The woman didn't have a current and valid insurance card but she states--emphatically--she had receipts with her proving she made insurance payments since January of 2008.

Instead of showing a little discretion--either letting the woman go entirely or citing her and letting her cough up the proof of insurance to the court system--the officer had the vehicle towed. The woman--who had a passenger and her 8-year-old son in the car--was moving to the area from Gainesville, Florida. She had a lot of her possessions in the car.

The officer made the 8-year-old get in the back of the squad car, which made the kid hysterical. The officer wouldn't let the mother console her kid and made her go back to her vehicle, making the situation worse. The officers proceeded to dump out the woman's purse and search the car without finding anything. Angie Bradley has no criminal record and has never even had a speeding ticket.

But this is Forsyth County, Georgia, and that's how it goes down in Forsyth, apparently.

The policeman announced the car was going to be towed and gave Angie Bradley a card for Coy's Towing Service and asked if she had someone who could come get her. Since Bradley had just moved, she knew nobody in the area, "let alone somebody who would be awake at midnight" (and come to get her).

When she asked the officer if he would transport her, he snapped "I'm not a taxi service." (Do they even HAVE one of those in Forsyth County, Georgia?)

Fortunately, there were two cops--the bad one and the good one, of course--and the good one offered a ride. The woman thought her nightmare was over, until she started trying to locate her car. Suffice to day, it took FOUR DAYS TO LOCATE THE CAR, resulting in a fee of $250 instead of $150.

Angie Bradley told her story in a small corner of the blogosphre, so the story would be out there about how citizens are treated in Forsyth County, Georgia. I decided it was time to rocket out of the sub-blogosphere and into the actual blogosphere, so I have put the story here.

Watch out in Forsyth County, Georgia. As Angie Bradly put it, if not for the decency of the OTHER policeman, "We would have been left on the side of the road. I truly believe that."

On a minor note: I submitted "sub-blogosphere" to Urban Dictionary Dot Com.


Anonymous said...

The car was towed for lack of insurance on the vehicle, a standard procedure for anyone who does not have valid insurance. Read the comments over at the original posting at the Miltonherald before needlessly fueling the fire further.

Johnny T. Utopia said...

It's not a standard procedure everywhere in the country. Furthermore, it sounds like the woman DID have valid insurance, she just didn't have enough proof to satisfy the "bad cop," who was being a hard case and would have left her out there on the side of the road, if not for the better judgment and mercy of the "good cop."

Discretion and good judgment should have played a role, here. But didn't. I guess this is how it goes down in Forsyth County, Georgia.

Even if the police did everything right, there is no excuse for it taking FOUR DAYS to find a car in the system.

Ultimately, THAT is the systemic problem revealed here which interests me the most, not another run-of-the-mill instance of police officers throwing their weight around at the expense of human decency.

Anonymous said...

According to the police report, the officer actually called the woman's insurance company which confirmed that her insurance has lapsed. I would like to know how it 'sounds like she had valid insurance'. Maybe if you believe the rambling as opposed to a police report but until a jury were to find the insurance company guilty of wrongfully accepting insurance premiums without providing coverage, I'll take the police report account.

And guess what, it IS standard procedure around the country. There is not a single state out there that does not have state mandated minimum auto insurance coverage that every single driver must have. An uninsured vehicle is typically towed because there is far too much to risk. It is akin to driving on a suspended or a revoked license, they will tow the car to insure the safety of other motorists. Driving uninsured puts drivers at risk with being stung by a huge medical bill in case of an accident with an uninsured driver. Not to mention a pretty big property damage loss. In the end you might have some sort of insurance but all the cop has to go on is what he has given to him. That means the information your insurance company provides to them.

The lady's proof of payment is insufficient for a number of reasons. One of them is that these are pretty easy to forge and easy to falsely claimed as payment for insurance. Secondly, insurance companies have been known to take your premiums without providing coverage, if this is what happened here then I only hope this woman gets a huge judgment against her insurance provider.

In short, there is no discretion for driving uninsured, just like there is no discretion for driving on a suspended license. Your car will be towed. Find me a state's statute that says otherwise.

Johnny T. Utopia said...

Easy. Right back at you. Recently, the city of Dallas decided to start towing cars that lacked insurance. This was a change to the city's previous policy. I blogged about it and created a link to the article. Here's the URL to that article, I hope it works. Copy and paste if the link isn't live.

Prior to that, Dallas DID NOT tow uninsured vehicles. There is huge variation in these policies, state by state and city by city and county by county and even, it appears, from police officer to police officer. But the Dallas article proves this: in the state of Texas, it's a matter for local cities to decide.

So there's the proof you demanded, right there. Show me the Texas statute which says otherwise. Dallas didn't tow uninsured cars until recently. And from living in El Paso for several years, I know very they don't tow all the uninsured drivers because my car was hit by one, and I watched him drive away after his car hit mine and he was cited for no insurance.

This was not a fluke. This was El Paso, Texas.

You're the one who brought up the issue. YOU PROVE TO ME it is the law in ALL FIFTY STATES to ALWAYS tow insured vehicles. It isn't! Like most laypeople (I assume you aren't a lawyer or a law student) you think things are simple and standard in the laws of all cities and all fifty states just because you think something SHOULD be that way and, in your view, it makes sense.

Tell me people get towed for no insurance in ALASKA. In MONTANA. In NORTH DAKOTA. It's the wild west out there, buddy. Some jurisdictions are so small they don't have the time or inclination to tow. They just write out the citation and say, "Go directly home and don't let me catch you until you take care of this."

Furthermore, just because nobody at the insurance company can find the correct info doesn't mean the woman didn't pay her insurance. We apparently agree on that point. There could have been a mistake.

She is emphatically and publicly stating she made those payments. I tend to believe she made the payments--as proven by the receipts she had--and some sort of bureaucratic error was made by the insurance company. If she had tried to produce forgeries, she wouldn't be telling her story in a public way.

She didn't need to get towed. Since the "good cop" was willing to take her home, and actually did, it would have been just as easy to escort the woman home while she was driving her own vehicle. And what was this about putting the 8-year-old in the back of the squad car? What was THAT?

But I'll tell you what. This is not the part of the issue which INTERESTS me. Why does it take FOUR FRIGGING DAYS for the woman to find her vehicle?

Even if the woman said, "Yeah, I was driving uninsured and I got caught. Dummy me" it's still not right to play musical car seats with her vehicle for FOUR DAYS and for her to end up paying a lot more money just because the system lost her car.

Anonymous said...

My status whether I'm a layman or one who is legally sophisticated should have little relevance on the issue. I would say this, I do no purport to give legal advice nor should you construe my opinion piece this way. With that being said, I never said they ALWAYS tow the vehicles, they do so regularly. I attempted to relate to you that this offense as akin to driving on a suspended license, where chances are, you're being towed. Don't want to buy into that, well, that's fine. I suppose we can agree to disagree. Evidently my experience down here in Georgia is quite distinct and separate from yours. I suppose the enforcement of the insurance requirement is a bit more serious down here.

It is noted that cops always have discretion in a sense of charging you or not. So in a sense a cop can even let a completely blasted driver go home instead of hauling him to jail. Has stuff like this happened? Sure. But this kind of discretion comes with a hefty price. For if this same driver were to cause an accident, the relevant police department is exposed to liability. Even though the State is generally immune to any tort or contract action unless she were to waive it, most states have some form of a sovereign immunity waiver whereby a person aggrieved by the state can bring a suit against the state. The point is that this discretion comes with a price. Not to mention the cop could lose his job over his misuse of discretion. This is where even escorting the woman could have some serious consequences.

It is a bit difficult to see why anyone complains about being towed in the first place. They can and likely will tow you when you operate a vehicle in violation of the basic laws of operating a motor vehicle, i.e. driving without a license, driving without adequate financial responsibility (aka insurance). This what this woman did. (Sorry I am not gonna buy an accused's story over the cop unless you give some evidence that the cop is fabricating it all up, there is a bit more incentive for the accused to lie.)

As far as Texas is concerned, on your second conviction of driving without insurance you will have driver's license along with your registration suspended. Tex. Transp. Code � 601.231. Your vehicle will likewise be impounded. Tex. Transp. Code � 601.261. Here is what can happen on just your first offense in Texas, fine of $ 500, jail for 90 days, or both. Tex. Transp. Code § 601.008. So for violating this section not only can your car be towed, but you could be hauled in to jail to wait for a bond hearing. They don't usually do that because that would really clog up the system. But they can and will if the circumstances call for it. Based on your experiences, I suppose some states are a bit more serious about enforcement than others. It is kinda like speeding I guess. Some states make what are commonly referred to as speed traps whereas others regularly let even your 15+ category off the hook. That being said, it does not mean that police are without power to tow your vehicle. And with an offense such as this one I would wager the chance is pretty high that they will.

As far as it taking four days to get the car out of the lot, I don't know and never expressed an opinion on that. I was expressing an opposing viewpoint regarding the towing. I would hope they would tow more insured motorists because they are a pretty big threat to the public.

P.S. The guy that hit you should not have been allowed to drive off. It is a shame to see police officers disregard their sworn duty of protecting the public. This is especially true in the context where the uninsured motorists causes an accident.

Anyway, wish you the best with your blog. BTW, the link is dead. It is not live on your blog and I suspect it must have gotten cut off as you copy and pasted it because the end of your link is a strange and single letter p. Somehow I think there must be a bit more to it.

Johnny T. Utopia said...

You are correct. The URL I tried to post got cut off. But thanks for taking me at my word: Dallas just RECENTLY began towing cars for lack of insurance.

In regard to the Texas statute you says on your SECOND (stomp stomp) CONVICTION (stomp stomp) for lack of insurance, your vehicle will be impounded. So you not only have to get CAUGHT twice, you have to get CONVICTED twice before they impound your vehicle.

So much for any uninsured driver getting towed any time they get caught! My point proven.

But, yeah...we're both kind of stumped on another issue. WHY DOES IT TAKE FOUR DAYS for the woman to get her car back? Even if she was guilty as all-get-out (and we see that probability differently) why should a car just get lost in the system?

It's not right, and it makes you wonder how many other people are suffering the same fate.