The ACLU of Missouri is suing Kansas City and the Board of Police Commissioners for what it calls “predatory” impound and towing practices.
The ACLU says their client, Dyanna Black, legally parked her car on a public street in February 2016. On returning to her spot, she discovered it had been towed.
She learned a Kansas City police officer had written an unwarranted citation for illegal parking.
Months later, Black successfully appealed her ticket in municipal court. A judge dismissed the ticket, but when she asked the judge to order the city to reimburse her towing fee, she was told the city has no process for that.
ACLU attorney Gillian Wilcox says that violates Black’s right to due process.
“If your property is going to be taken away from you, you are entitled to procedural due process under the law, and that would require some process before your money can be taken,” Wilcox says.
When a person's car is towed, they often have to pay for the tow, which can rage from $150 to $400. They may also be responsible for a daily storage fee.
Black, the ACLU's client, says this disproportionately affects low-income families.
“Many people struggle to scrape together the money they need to get their car out of impound so they can get to work or pick up their children, or just do what they need to live,” Black said in an ACLU statement.
Wilcox says the ACLU is not asking for the money. It wants the city to implement a process so people who have been unnecessarily towed can appeal to get their money back.
Wilcox says the ACLU's research suggests other cities have such policies in place.
She also says the ACLU is asking for class status on this case, so anyone whose car was wrongfully towed or impounded would have the opportunity to apply for a refund.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday. A spokesman for Kansas City said they would not comment before their legal team has a chance to review the case.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.