Predatory Towing: What You Need to Know

by | Aug 28, 2015

As our previous blog entry illustrated, one of the primary objectives of any towing service is to assist a distressed driver in the event of a vehicular accident or breakdown. The other primary objective of towing services is to uphold the law through the towing of illegally parked vehicles on public or private property. However, in spite of all the friendliness and good-natured deeds most towing services are known for, towing as a whole has been cast in a very unflattering light as a result of predatory towing and the misconceptions surrounding it.

What Is Predatory Towing?

Most people will tell you that predatory towing is the practice of selecting vehicles for towing by assigned spies–or “spotters”–scouting the area at the request of a tow company. Others will claim that predatory towing is actually the towing of vehicles for the sole purpose of charging high fees to the owner. So, what is predatory towing?

Predatory towing, as it is most properly and broadly defined, consists of several different and equally offensive scenarios in which the towing company in question goes against its contracts, the law, or both, to tow a legally or illegally parked vehicle.

Case One:

Towing companies are permitted and supposed to remove illegally parked vehicles from both public and private properties. In this instance, the customers of the towing company are the property owners, and the vehicle owner is a trespasser, whether intentionally or not. In cases like this, the enlistment of spotters—while questionable to most people—is actually quite useful; they help to discreetly bring any parking violations in the surrounding area to the attention of the local towing company. This is perfectly legal. What is not legal, and what is considered here to be the first example of predatory towing, is the towing of any legally parked vehicle. The removal of a legally parked vehicle by a towing company is a violation that can, in extreme cases, be labelled grand theft auto. Truckers responsible for this form of predatory towing can face serious jail time.

Case Two:

The accidental towing of a vehicle that was parked legally is rare, as the vast majority of towing services should be able to make the distinction between legal and illegal parking. However, this second example of predatory towing is an extension of the first, and is something that all car owners should be wary of. Under normal circumstances, when a vehicle is towed, the owner is expected to retrieve it from the towing company’s lot and pay a fee for their parking violation and the vehicle’s release. However, some towing companies are notorious for purposely towing legally parked cars for the sole purpose of charging ridiculously high fees to the owner, all the while refusing to release the vehicle until said fees are paid in full. Those responsible for this form of predatory towing can then not only be found guilty of grand theft auto, but extortion as well.

Case Three:

The first two examples of predatory towing listed above involve the towing of a vehicle that was, in fact, legally parked. But are there any cases of predatory towing that involve illegally parked cars as well? The answer is yes. When towing an illegally parked vehicle, the tow truck driver must operate within any guidelines listed within the contract the towing company has with the property owner involved—or at the very least, the tow truck driver must act in response to a direct dispatch from said property owner. This means that towing companies cannot act outside of what property owners or the government demand, as they would have no jurisdiction or reason to do so. It is imperative that towing companies act only upon request by the property owner or government. Otherwise, it is a case of predatory towing that is punishable by law, whether the vehicle impounded was parked illegally or not.

Why Is This Important to Know?

The owners of impounded vehicles are often so quick to blame anything or anyone else for their parking violations that they’ll actually label any act of towing as “predatory,” especially if a spotter was involved. This undermines the effects of, and response to, real predatory towing. All drivers should be made aware of the distinction so that they may be properly informed of the dangers, as is their right.

Here at Duvall’s Towing Service, we want to ensure that those who have had their vehicle impounded as a result of a parking violation can reclaim it without hindrance or uneasiness. While we are here to uphold the law, it is our philosophy to treat every vehicle—as well as their owners—with the utmost respect and care. If you’re in need of a towing service, and only trust your vehicle with the most ethical of companies, call Duvall’s Towing Service TODAY!

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