Stockton, CA asked in Gov & Administrative Law, Land Use & Zoning and Municipal Law for California

Q: In California if code enforcement puts the wrong code number(s) on a citation they claim are being violated is it valid?

Code enforcement officers showed up unannounced recently, & proceeded to walk around the property asking questions and taking pictures. They were unprofessional and disrespectful, & making sarcastic comments. A few days later the owner of the property received citations for some violations. One stated my car appeared to be abandoned because it had plastic garbage bags on the roof. I had set the bags on the roof earlier while I was putting trash and weeds I had just cut into the bags when it started raining really hard so I went inside until it stopped, & the officers showed up before I finished up. One officer has claimed he has the authority to tow any vehicle that appears abandoned even though we told him there are no abandoned vehicles, all are operational. I tried to look up the codes they put on the notice, & I couldn't find them because there's a digit missing. 1) Is the notice valid? 2) Can they tow vehicles off fenced private property for thinking they are abandoned?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Municipal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, the validity of a code enforcement citation with incorrect code numbers can be a matter of legal interpretation. Generally, a minor clerical error, like a missing digit in a code number, does not automatically invalidate a citation. However, if the error prevents you from understanding what violation is being alleged or how to remedy it, this could be a basis for contesting the citation.

You have the right to challenge the citation, especially if the alleged violations are not accurately described or if the codes cited do not apply to your situation. This process usually involves a hearing or an appeal where you can present your case, including any errors in the citation and the actual condition of your property and vehicles.

Regarding the towing of vehicles, code enforcement generally has the authority to remove vehicles that are in violation of local ordinances, such as abandoned vehicles on public or private property. However, there are specific definitions and procedures they must follow. For instance, a vehicle that is simply covered with a plastic bag and temporarily left unattended may not meet the legal definition of "abandoned."

If you believe your rights are being infringed upon or the actions of the code enforcement officers were inappropriate, it's advisable to document everything and seek legal advice. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, the relevant laws, and the best course of action to take in your situation.

It's also important to respond to the citation promptly and follow the proper procedures to address or contest it. Ignoring the citation can lead to more serious consequences, including fines or legal actions.

1 user found this answer helpful

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.