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.

NEXT: This Anti-Gay Pizza Place Got Trashed on Yelp. Why Isn't That Enough?

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  1. ROADZ and Top. Men. in one story.

    I’m close to filling out my Bingo card.

    1. B I NGO
      B I NGO
      B I NGO
      and BINGO was his name-o.

    2. Q) How do you get a sweet little old lady to drop the f-bomb?

      A) Get another sweet little old lady to shout “Bingo!”

      1. I was on for O71!

    3. My Grandma loves her some bingo. She’s got a fully-kitted bag, and it is packed for war.

      She has a licence plate surrounder thingie captioned, “Bingo keeps Grandmas off the streets.”

  2. 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.

    Overriden by the Fuck You, That’s Why Clause of the Constitution.

  3. “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?”

    No shit?

    1. Sure, and it’s illegal to squat in the crosswalk and take a dump just as likely.

      1. *Shakes head* I don’t even recognize this country anymore.

    2. Walking in LA?
      Nobody walks in LA.

        1. Give him a break, not everyone can be HM.

          1. But everyone should try.

    3. It’s like that in Georgia. And as a driver I really like pedestrian laws; let’s me know when I can run em over.

    4. I’ve seen people ticketed for this?

  4. There was, for a while, a magical spot on 79th St at the entrance to the FDR. That little stretch of block on the right that is the bottom of East End Ave had no street cleaning sign on it, and it fit one car. If you got it, you didn’t have to move your car unless you felt like it. I got it one time and left my car there for five days just prior to a vacation, it was great. At some point they got wise though and put in a street cleaning sign and that was that.

  5. America’s parking system is a disaster due to government mismanagement. We underprice curb parking; it doesn’t matter if a food truck is willing to spend thousands for a valuable piece of curb parking; municipal government won’t allow it and gives it away to cars at a low price. Stores get low turnover due to low curb side pricing while taxpayers have to subsidize car owners. Meanwhile, because parking is underpriced, governments levy enourmous fines on petty violations and take massive amounts of land and build garages on them. And businesses and apartments are only allowed to operate if they build enormous amounts of expensive parking. Banks are unwilling to lend over a certain amount for projects in poor neighborhoods, so businesses cannot get the financing to build the parking mandated by government in these neighborhoods, and they decay. For a good libertarian analysis of the issue, nothing is better than Donald Shoup’s “The high Cost of parking.”

    1. Parking enforcement, like all traffic enforcement, is for revenue and revenue only.

      1. The original argument for paid parking (and its enforcement) on ‘downtown’ streets was that people coming to shop can find parking spots; it was in the interest of businesses that people move off parking spots close to shops so there’s a continuous movement of (potential) shoppers.

        Then parking became a revenue source.

        I work in a ‘technology park’; (most) people here park only for long term (i.e. 8-9 hours a day). All parking spaces are managed by a(n appropriately evil) parking management company: I have a permanent pass for which I have to pay $65.63/month (weekly passes cost $20, daily ones $4.50). Anyone who parks here doesn’t take parking space from casual drivers as there are practically no casual drivers here … most parking spaces are filled up by 8AM by employees. So the original justification (i.e. to keep drivers moving) doesn’t apply even remotely here: this is purely about being a revenue source.

        1. The stated intent was for shoppers to find parking spots; the unstated intent was to raise revenue.

    2. Excellent points, and thanks for the article citation.

  6. California. A little piece of heaven on earth.

  7. Cecil B. DeMille what have you wrought?

  8. This must be an April Fool’s Day story. States don’t enforce little known laws, do they?

  9. It’s disturbing just how out of touch extremist libertarians are. No understanding at all of how the world works.

    If everyone knew all of the laws, they’d be able to avoid doing things that they might get fined for. This would result in a big drop in revenues. How would we maintain our roads and bridges and fund our law enforcement?

    And speaking of law enforcement, if everyone knew every law, law enforcement, when they suspect someone of a crime, wouldn’t be able to just pick someone up on an unrelated and obscure charge. So criminals would run free and our children would be in danger.

    This is why your leaders who know these things, are in charge.

  10. The 72 hour rule is very well known in CA. The idea behind it is that you shouldn’t be storing your vehicle on public property.

    But, like every other law, this one is abused extensively. Usually, it is residents complaining about people parking on a public street in front of their houses? Why? Because they want the public parking spots for themselves.

    There are no good guys here.

    1. I almost called when there was this car parked like utter crap — taking two spots — in front of my house for over 3.5 weeks. He parked his ass there the day after street sweeping and moved it the day before the next one. Parking is already at a premium on my street and it was annoying to drive around the block trying to find parking, all the time seeing a spot you just couldn’t fit into for a month. I just hoped he’d eventually get a street sweeping ticket… alas.

  11. Its not even that you’ll get your car towed for not moving it for 72 straight hours.

    You can also get your car towed if you park it in the same place every day. Its not like a cop stakes out your car for 72 straight hours before they tow it.

    Trust me on this.

    1. In CA, they have to mark the tire to prove you have not moved.

      1. I was wondering how they figure it out.

      2. Oh, the chalk on the tire!

        Yeah, that’s fuckin’ infallible.

    2. Man, life must suck for those people who get handicapped spaces right in front of their homes…

  12. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Should the city have to put signs up in front of every fire hydrant and every driveway in order to be able to tow cars from those locations? It sounds like the sign requirement only applies if the parking restriction in question is specific to that parking space. The 72 hour law applies to all parking spaces.

  13. Off-course, Ignorance of the law is no excuse.This towing law should be known to everyone. How could anyone park his car on the same street for 5 days and giving trouble to the residents. Rather then doing this, that person can go for hiring motorcycle hauling company and get the car hauled to the required location.

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