L.A. Sued Over Little-Known, Unposted Law Allowing Towing Parked Cars After 72 Hours


J. David and Jerolyn Sackman got their '99 Toyota Sienna towed after it was parked for five days in the same street spot, after a neighbor complained. They didn't know, and most Los Angeles residents likely don't know, that being in the same street spot for over 72 hours is a towable offense.

Now, the Los Angeles Times reports, they are suing the city in federal court over it.  It cost $342 for the Sackmans to get their old car back. 

The parking violation is unposted, on their block or anywhere, so they argue that:

the California Vehicle Code limits the circumstances under which law enforcement officers and parking officials can have cars, trucks and motorcycles towed. According to the code, "a vehicle shall not be removed unless signs are posted giving notice of removal."

Without the sign, the lawsuit alleges, the couple were denied the constitutional right of due process, which means that people must be given notice of the proceedings involving them and an opportunity to be heard before the government can take away one's life, liberty or property.

"No notice of the 72-hour restriction is provided and instead residents of the city are tricked into believing that they are parking legally by the failure to post signs notifying them of these restrictions," the lawsuit states.

The city pulled this crap on 4,539 cars last year. 

I will dare say out loud I have likely committed this towable offense about 200 times in my over two decades as a car owner in Los Angeles. I was once, just once, ticketed for it, but never towed. That ticketing occurred when I had been parked for two weeks on one of the rare, strange blocks in L.A. with, for reasons I do not comprehend, no street cleaning restrictions. (Don't turn me in, please.)

Nearly every L.A. street has a (clearly posted so we are aware of it!) two-hour street cleaning period every week, so it is nearly impossible to get away ticket-free for leaving one's car stationary for more than a week, lest you fear the absence of this secret 72-hour rule will result in unregulated parking anarchy.

I reported last year about a similarly little-known set of jaywalking regulations the city applies unfairly. Once that countdown begins in the "walk/don't walk" sign, did you know, it's already illegal to start crossing the street in a crosswalk?

Like those jaywalking laws, this 72-hour law—which falls generally on those who have raised their neighbors ire for whatever reason and get reported by them—likely falls mostly on the less-well-off who can't necessarily easily afford to pay for parking every time they need to be away from their car for three days for whatever reason.