When you are charged with a DUI in Chicago, IL, you may be subject to a $2,000 fine, plus towing and storage for seizure and vehicle impoundment. However, Chicago has recently been impounding the vehicles of people who have not been charged with Driving Under the Influence as well.
A recent article by C.J. Ciarmella published on April 25, 2018 titled “Chicago Is Trying to Pay Down its Debt by Impounding Innocent People’s Cars” suggests that the City of Chicago is using these fines as a way to generate money to pay off debt. Ciarmella found that “littering, drag racing, playing music too loud, and possessing graffiti materials or illegal fireworks also all became impoundable offenses.”
Chicago may seize and impound vehicles associated with the following charges:
- Drugs in Vehicle or on Person in Vehicle (MCC 7-24-225)
- DUI (MCC 7-24-226(a))
- Suspended License (9-80-240)
- Prostitution (MCC 8-8-060)
- Noise (MCC 9-76-145)
Ciarmella states that “Chicago fined motorists more than $17 million between March 2017 and March of  for 31 different types of offenses, ranging from DUI to having illegal fireworks in a car to playing music too loud, according to data from the Chicago Administrative Hearings Department. About $10 million of those fines were for driving on a suspended license, and more than $3 million were for drug offenses.”
The city’s municipal code also has no minimum threshold for the weight of drugs in a vehicle to trigger an impoundment, meaning even the smallest amount of drugs in a car is enough for the police to seize a vehicle.
Additionally, not only is the city fining citizens who are charged with crimes, it is also impounding vehicles even if the owner of the vehicle is not the person charged. While other major cities will not typically impound a vehicle if someone else can drive it away safely, Chicago impounds these vehicles and fines the owners, whether they were present during the violation or not.
Ciarmella’s article highlights Spencer Byrd as an example. Byrd had a side occupation as an auto mechanic. He would drive his car to service calls and would sometimes give rides to clients whose vehicles had broken down. During one such occasion, Byrd’s client was in the possession of drugs when they were pulled over by the police. Not only was Byrd not in possession of the drugs, he was not aware they were in his vehicle until police searched his client. Both Byrd and his client were brought into the station, and Byrd was released after being interrogated without being charged with a crime.
At this point it would be expected that Spencer Byrd would be able to retrieve his vehicle and drive home. But the City of Chicago had impounded it and fined Byrd thousands of dollars.
Unlike most other suburban municipalities that tend to fine considerably less ($500, plus towing and storage), in the City of Chicago the owner gets an opportunity to challenge vehicle impoundment at several different stages. We have provided tips to help you at each stage in the past, but you are more likely to succeed in challenging a vehicle impoundment in Chicago with the help of an attorney.
If you suffer an administrative fine from the City of Chicago, we strongly encourage you to contact Richard Fenbert at Fenbert & Associates, LLC, so that he can assist you in avoiding the hefty impoundment fines through litigation.