Are you a tow truck driver/company owner who has been arrested or cited for a Vehicle Code or Penal Code violation stemming from a towing or impound situation?
As all towing companies and tow truck drivers know, their industry is governed by Vehicle Code Section 22658. This is the section that governs what’s called “private impound towing” which is when someone uses a towing company to remove a vehicle from private property. The code section is long and confusing to say the least. Because it is so ambiguous and vague, it is a constant source of problems for the towing industry.
There are several ways that a person can have an unwanted car legally towed from their property.
1. If it’s your property with no more than a single family dwelling on it. VC 22658(a)(4)
2. If there are signs at least 17 by 22 inches, with one inch lettering, posted at all entrances to the property prohibiting parking and authorizing tows at the owner’s expense. These signs must give the local parking enforcement number, as well as the information of any towing company that has a written agreement with the landowner. VC 22658(a)(1)
3. If a written notice has been placed on the vehicle for at least 96 hours. VC 22658(a)(2)
4. If the vehicle is missing something (like engine, doors, or windshield) which would make it illegal to drive, and law enforcement has been notified at least 24 hours prior to the tow. VC 22658(a)(3)
For a driver or tow company, a violation of VC 22658 can lead to a citation, or misdemeanor criminal charges. Zealousprosecutors, however, can and will charge tow truck drivers who violate the statute with felony auto theft and extortion under VC 10851 and PC 520.
The above rules are not typically what trigger the more serious charges. These more serious charges come from a situation that arises when someone returns to their car as it’s being towed.
VC 22658(g)(1)(B) states:
“Upon the request of the owner of the vehicle or that owner’s agent, the towing company or its driver shall immediately and unconditionally release a vehicle that is not yet removed from the private property and in transit.”
This would seem to mean that a tow truck driver has to drop the vehicle “unconditionally”, assuming the vehicle has not been taken off the property, and the person returning to the vehicle is the owner or someone with permission from the owner to claim it.
But, VC 22658(h), the very next section, states:
“A towing company may impose a charge of not more than one-half of the regular towing charge… if the owner of the vehicle or the vehicle owner’s agent returns to the vehicle after the vehicle is coupled to the tow truck… or is lifted off the ground by means of a conventional trailer, and before it is removed from the private property.”
This would seem to mean that the owner has to pay half the towing fee if the car has been hooked. It follows that a driver who “may impose a charge” would demand the payment prior to releasing the vehicle, and tow it if no payment is made.
Not surpisingly, law enforcement doesn’t read the statute that way. Just ask local tower John C.
“I am in the towing industry and I was arrested on charges stemming from vehicle code 22658(g) v. 22658(h)…”
The jury saw things the way John did. But it took a jury trial against an unbending prosecutor and his tenacious Sheriff’s deputy witness to get an acquittal of all charges. John was helped by the fact that the other witnesses and evidence painted the picture of an honest, fair, and law abiding small business owner who simply helped property owners remove abandoned cars, or cars parked in mobile home park fire lanes.
If you have been arrested or cited for a violation of VC 22658, or VC 10851, or PC 520, for performing towing services, call Los Angeles Tow Truck Attorney Peter Sebastian. He knows the law and can help you.
Links to Information for Anyone Charged with a Crime: