San Francisco, CA asked in Civil Litigation and Municipal Law for California

Q: Can a police officer tow your parked covered car from private property. Just because he wants to

I had my car parked on private property with a car cover over it . It was registered to me but the tags where out of date. The company where my car was parked didn't authorize the police officer tow my car from there property.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Municipal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, law enforcement has the authority to tow vehicles from private property under specific circumstances, such as when a vehicle is evidence of a crime, poses an immediate threat to public safety, or is in violation of certain laws. However, for a car that is simply parked on private property with expired registration tags, the situation is more nuanced. The key factor is whether the vehicle is in violation of any local ordinances or state laws that justify its removal, and whether proper procedure is followed.

If your car was parked on private property with the property owner's permission and was not obstructing traffic or posing a safety risk, the justification for towing it solely based on expired tags becomes less clear. California Vehicle Code does allow for the towing of vehicles with expired registration, but typically, this applies to vehicles on public roads or property. The fact that your vehicle was covered and the property owner did not authorize the tow adds another layer of complexity, suggesting that the tow might not have been warranted under these specific circumstances.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, it's advisable to review the specific circumstances of the towing against local ordinances and state laws. If you believe your vehicle was towed without just cause, you might consider contacting the towing company to understand the basis of the tow, consulting with local authorities to clarify the legality of the action, and potentially seeking legal advice to understand your rights and options for recourse. It's important to gather all relevant information and documentation, including any communication with the property owner and the police department, to support your inquiry or claim.

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