AGENDA ITEM #6D
April 14, 2015
Introduction
MEMORANDUM
April 13, 2015
TO:
FROM:
County Council
/YJ
j
~
Josh Hamlin, Legislative
Attome~
SUBJECT:
Introduction:
Bill 17-15, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private
Property - Amendments.
Bill 17-15, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property - Amendments,
sponsored by Lead Sponsor Councihnember Berliner, is scheduled to be introduced on April 14,
2015. A public hearing will be scheduled at a later date.
Bill 17-15 would:
(I)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
authorize the County Executive to set flat rates for certain towing services;
add certain notice and towing procedure requirements;
provide certain additional enforcement powers for the Office of Consumer
Protection;
prohibit the immobilization of certain vehicles; and
generally amend the law governing motor vehicle towing and immobilization on
private property.
Background
Chapter 30C of the County Code governs the towing or immobilization of motor vehicles
on private property without the consent of the vehicle owners, and has not been substantively
amended since 1997. Bill 17-15 would make a number of changes to the law to better protect
public safety in incidents where vehicles are towed without their owners' consent. Specifically,
Bill 17-15 would amend the law to:
• clearly state that the purpose ofthe Chapter is to protect public safety;
• require the Executive to set either maximum rates or flat rates, and require towing
companies to charge rates either not in excess of the maximum rate, or equal to the flat
rate, depending on which is set;
• grant subpoena powers for the Office of Consumer Protection in enforcing the Chapter;
• require one notice sign per 25 spaces in parking lots with 100 or more parking spaces, in
addition to requiring signs at entrances;
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• require that tows between 2:00am and 9:00am be "specifically authorized" by the property
owner;
• require photographic evidence of violation or event precipitating the towing of a vehicle;
• prohibit the use of "spotters" to identify vehicles for towing;
• require a property owner or property manager to maintain tow slips and information on
nonconsensual tows;
• give authority to Office of Consumer Protection investigators to order release of vehicle;
and
• prohibit immobilization ofvehicles under this Chapter.
The Bill would also make a number of corrective technical amendments throughout Chapter 30C
to make subparagraph references consistent with current practice.
This packet contains:
Bill 17-15
Legislative Request Report
Circle
#
1
15
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Bill No.
17-15
Conceming: Motor Vehicle Towing and
Immobilization on Private Propertv ­
Amendments
Revised:
April 13, 2015
Draft No.
g
Introduced:
April 14, 2015
Expires:
October 14, 2016
Enacted: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
Executive: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
Effective: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
Sunset Date:
--!..!;No~n~e
_ _ _ _ __
Ch. _ _, Laws of Mont. Co. _ __
COUNTY COUNCIL
FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND
Lead Sponsor: COWlcilmember Berliner
AN ACT
to:
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
authorize the COWlty Executive to set flat rates for certain towing services;
add certain notice and towing procedure requirements;
provide
certain
additional enforcement powers for the Office of Consumer
Protection;
prohibit the immobilization of certain vehicles; and
generally amend the law governing motor vehicle towing and immobilization on
pri vate property
By amending
Montgomery COWlty Code
Chapter 30C, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property
Sections 30C-I, 30C-2, 30C-3, 30C-4, 30C-5, 3OC-7, 3OC-8, and 30C-II
Boldface
Underlining
[Single boldface brackets]
Double underlining
[[Double boldface brackets]]
* * *
Heading or defined term.
Added to existing law by original bill.
Deletedfrom existing law by original bill.
Added by amendment.
Deletedfrom existing law or the bill by amendment.
Existing law unaffected by bill,
The County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland approves the following Act:
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BILL
No. 17-15
1
2
Sec. I. Sections 30C-I, 30C-2, 30C-3, 30C-4, 30C-S, 30C-7, 30C-8, and
30C-II are amended as follows:
30C-I. Definitions; scope; purpose.
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4
*
(b)
Scope.
(1)
*
*
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This Chapter applies to the towing of a motor vehicle from
private property, or the immobilization of a motor vehicle on
private property, without the consent ofthe vehicle owner.
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(2)
This Chapter does not apply to:
[a.]eA)
[b.]{ID
Towing initiated by the vehicle owner;
Towing approved or requested by a police officer,
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fIrefIghter, or rescue squad member in the course of duty
or under the state law on abandoned vehicles; or
[c.](g
(3)
Towing a motor vehicle while repossessing it.
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Sections 30C-4 and 30C-6 do not apply to:
[a.]eA)
Towing from designated handicapped parking
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spaces;
[b.]{ID
Towing from the yard or driveway of a one-family
19
dwelling; or
[c.](g
Towing from land immediately adjoining an electric
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or telephone utility building or structure that is not open to
the general public.
(c)
Purpose.
This Chapter does not authorize the immobilization, towing or
holding of any vehicle. To the extent that legal authority to immobilize,
tow or hold a vehicle without the consent of its owner exists, that
authority must be derived from other statutes or the common law. [This]
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No. 17-15
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The purpose of this Chapter is to protect public safety
.by
restricting
[restricts] the exercise of any such legal authority.
30C-2. Maximum rates.
(a)
When charging for towing a motor vehicle from private property
without the consent of the owner, a towing service must [not]
charge~
ill
ill
~
flat
~
rate established
.by
the Executive under this Section; or
rate that is not more than a maximum rate [which the county
executive must establish by regulation under method (2)]
established
.by
the Executive under this Section. [The executive
must review the rates at least every two (2) years.]
(b)
The [executive] Executive must set
.by
method
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ill
regulation, and
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review at least every two years, either fair and reasonable flat rates or
maximum rates for each ofthe following acts:
(1)
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Attaching the vehicle to be towed to the tow truck;
Towing the vehicle to a storage site. This rate must be based on
the distance the vehicle is towed;
(2)
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(3)
(4)
(c)
Storing the vehicle until it is redeemed; and
Any other service needed to safely remove a vehicle.
The fee for releasing a vehicle under section 30C-7 must not exceed
one-half the attachment fee set under subsection (b)(1),
(d)
A towing service must not charge for any act not listed in this section
unless that act was expressly requested by the vehicle owner.
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30C-3. Administration; rates.
(
a)
Each driver employed by a trespass towing service must have a valid
license to operate a tow truck.
-3-
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No. 17-15
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(b)
Every trespass towing service must file with the Office a schedule of its
rates for each action connected with the towing or storage of
unauthorized vehicles. The Office may disapprove a rate that;
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ill
ill
(f)
is different from
§;
flat rate set under Section 30C-2; or
exceeds [the]
§;
maximum rate set under Section 30C-2.
*
*
*
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59
The Office may issue subpoenas to compel the production of
documents, papers, books, records, and other evidence in any matter to
which this Chapter applies.
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(g)
Any violation ofthis chapter is a class A violation.
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30C-4. Public notice; tow procedures.
*
(b)
Signs.
*
*
*
*
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*
(2)
Sufficient numbers of signs must be posted permanently so that at
least one sign is clearly readable from each parking area and each
vehicle entrance to the property at all times. [Alternatively]
Additionally, in a parking lot with more than 100 parking spaces,
at least one sign must be posted in a conspicuous place for each
[75] 25 parking spaces, and each sign must be readable from all
affected spaces.
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(3)
Each sign must:
[a.](A)
Summarize all parking restrictions on the property
enforced by towing unauthorized vehicles, including time
and area
[b.]ill)
restrictions;
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Indicate that vehicles violating the restrictions may
be towed at the vehicle owner's expense; and
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No.
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[c.](9
List the telephone munber of each towing service
hired to tow unauthorized vehicles from the property, or a
telephone number that is answered personally at all times
of the day and night by the property owner or an agent of
the owner who is informed of each vehicle towed from the
property.
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*
(6)
cooperative
or
*
*
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An owner of residential property, including a condominium,
homeowners'
association,
may
have
an
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unauthorized vehicle towed from that property without posting
the signs required by this subsection if:
[a.]
(A)
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A
notice specifying a violation of an applicable rule
or covenant is securely attached to the vehicle in a
conspicuous place;
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[b.]ill)
on it;
[c.](9
The date and time the notice was attached is written
The notice informs the vehicle owner that:
the violation must be corrected or the vehicle may
be towed at the vehicle owner's expense 48 hours
after the notice is attached; and
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(i)
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(ii)
an unauthorized vehicle that has received a notice of
the same violation under this Section on the same
property within the previous 180 days may be towed
without any further notice; and
[d.]@
The vehicle is not towed until at least 48 hours after
the notice is attached unless the unauthorized vehicle
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BILL
No. 17-1S
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received a notice of the same violation under this Section
on the same property within the previous 180 days.
(7)
An owner of a commercial parking lot with more than 100 spaces
may have an unauthorized vehicle towed from that property
without posting the signs required by this subsection if:
[a.](A)
A notice specifying a violation of an applicable rule
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or covenant is securely attached to the vehicle in a
conspicuous place;
[b.]ill.)
on it;
[c.](9
(i)
The date and time the notice was attached is written
The notice informs the vehicle owner that:
the violation must be corrected or the vehicle may
be towed at the vehicle owner's expense 24 hours
after the notice is attached; and
(ii)
an unauthorized vehicle that has received a notice of
the same violation under this Section on the same
property within the previous 180 days may be towed
without any further notice; and
[d.](D)
The vehicle is not towed until at least 24 hours after
the notice is attached unless the unauthorized vehicle
received a notice of the same violation under this Section
on the same property within the previous 180 days.
(c)
Tow procedures.
*
(5)
property owner, must not:
*
*
Any property owner or any person acting as an agent of a
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No. 17-15
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(d)
(1)
(9)
[a.](A)
Falsely state that a property owner authorized the
towing of a particular vehicle;
[b.]@}
Record any false infonnation about the towing of a
particular vehicle; or
[c.](g
Sign a tow slip before all of the infonnation relating
to the towing of a particular vehicle is recorded on the slip.
*
*
*
An
agent of a property owner, for the purpose of ordering the
towing of an unauthorized vehicle, must not:
[a.](A)
Be employed by, or have any member of his or her
immediate family employed by, any towing service; or
[b.]@}
Have any fmancial interest in any towing service or
the towing of any motor vehicle.
This provision does not apply if the towing service is the record owner
ofproperty from which a motor vehicle is towed.
(10)
An
unauthorized vehicle may be towed from private property
without the express authorization of the property owner or the
owner's agent only[;
a.
b.
Between 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.; or
If] if the vehicle is directly blocking a clearly marked fIre
lane or access to the property or a building on the property.
(ll)
Before towing an unauthorized vehicle from private property,
~
person must obtain photographic evidence of the violation or
event that precipitated the towing ofthe vehicle.
A property owner may move a vehicle within a parking lot
without prior notice to the vehicle owner, but must not remove
the vehicle from the lot, when moving the vehicle is necessary to:
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No. 17-15
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[a.]{A)
Remove large quantities of snow or debris;
Repair the parking lot; or
Respond to a threat to a person's safety or health.
[b·HID
[c.](Q
(2)
In
moving a vehicle within a parking lot, a property owner must:
[a.]{A)
[b.](ID
Take reasonable care not to damage the vehicle;
Pay any cost of moving the vehicle; and
Inform the vehicle owner where the vehicle was
[c.](Q
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relocated or return the vehicle to its original location as
soon as possible.
ill
A property owner or towing service must not employ or use the services
of an individual commonly referred to as
£!
"spotter," whose primary
task is to report the presence of unauthorized parked vehicles for the
purpose of towing or removal. For the purposes of this subsection,
"primary task" means an individual's iob function that accounts for
more than 50% of the individual's compensation or hours worked.
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30e-S.
Notice to police.
*
(c)
*
*
The property owner or [the owner's agent] property manager must
retain each tow slip and, for those vehicles towed without a tow slip, a
record of the information furnished to the police, for one year after the
tow. For each vehicle towed without a tow slip, the property owner or
[agent] property manager must record and retain the name of the owner
of the property and, if the tow was authorized by an agent, the name of
the agent. The Police Department, the Office, and the owner of any
vehicle towed by the service may inspect and copy this information at
any time during normal business hours.
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*
*
*
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30C-7. Incomplete tows.
*
(e)
*
*
A police officer or investigator employed
Qy
the Office may order a
towing service to release a vehicle, or to stop attaching a vehicle, at any
time.
30C-8. Redemption and storage procedures.
*
(b)
*
*
Payment and promise to pay.
(1)
Cash payment.
A trespass towing service must accept payment in
cash, or by a traveler's check accompanied by reasonable
identification.
(2)
Options.
[a·]W
Each trespass towing service must accept as full
payment either a credit card slip or a personal check, at the
option of the towing service, validly signed by the vehicle
owner or the owner's agent for the amount of all valid
charges.
[b.]Qll
Each trespass towing service must notify the Office
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204
on the rate schedule filed under Section 30C-3 whether it
opts to accept credit cards or personal checks or both. The
towing service must notify the Office if it changes that
option.
[c.lCQ
The option chosen by a trespass towing service must
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be available to the owners of all vehicles towed by that
service without the consent oftheir owners.
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210
(3)
Credit card option.
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Bill
No.
17-15
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[a.](A)
Each trespass towing service must accept the 2 most
widely used major credit cards. The Office must defme, in
regulations under method (2), which major credit cards are
the 2 most widely used.
[b.]Qll
In addition, if a trespass towing service accepts any
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other credit card for any other purpose, it must accept that
credit card under this Chapter.
(4)
Personal check option.
A trespass towing service must, if it does
not accept the 2 most widely used credit cards under subsection
(c)(3), accept a personal check, with reasonable identification, if
the vehicle is registered in Maryland.
(5)
Withholding payment.
If:
[a. ](A)
The vehicle owner withholds payment in a credit
card transaction with a towing service under this Chapter;
and
[b.]Qll
A court in any subsequent civil action finds that the
tow was valid and the amount charged was correct; the
vehicle owner must pay the towing service, in addition to
the amount validly charged, liquidated damages of 2 times
the amount validly charged (but not more than $1,000.00)
and all reasonable costs of collection, including court costs
and a reasonable attorney's fee.
(6)
Stopping payment.
If:
[a. leA)
The vehicle owner stops payment on a check written
to a towing service under this chapter;
[b.]Qll
The towing service follows the procedures in state
law for collection of dishonored checks; and
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No. 17-15
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[c.](Q
A court in any subsequent civil action finds that the
tow was valid and the amount charged was correct; the
vehicle owner must pay the towing service, in addition to
the amount validly charged, liquidated damages of 2 times
the amount validly charged (but not more than $1,000.00)
and a collection fee of$25.00.
*
(a)
*
*
30e-ll.
Immobilization [restrictions] prohibited.
Applicability.
A person must not immobilize a motor vehicle owned by
another person [without complying with all requirements ofthis section]
on private property, without the consent ofthe vehicle owner.
(b)
[Signs.
The owner of the property on which a vehicle is immobilized
must permanently post a sufficient number of signs which meet all
requirements of Section 30C-4(b)(1)-(5) on the property at least 24
hours before a person immobilizes an unauthorized vehicle. The text of
the sign must ret1ect that vehicles may be immobilized rather than, or in
addition to, being towed, and must specify the rate charged to release a
vehicle. The Department of Housing and Community Affairs may by
regulation prescribe the text, graphics, symbols, shape, size, color, or
other elements necessary for a sign to comply with this section.
(c)
Requirements.
A person must not immobilize an unauthorized vehicle
unless:
(1)
the owner of the property where the vehicle is located has
expressly authorized the person to immobilize unauthorized
vehicles on the property;
(2)
the person, and any business that employs the person to
immobilize vehicles, has registered with the Department of
®
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BILL No. 17-15
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Housing and Community Affairs under Section 31A-2 as if
Chapter 31 A applies to that person and business;
(3)
the person has been adequately trained to apply an immobilizing
device;
(4)
signs meeting all requirements of subsection
(b)
have been
properly posted on the property;
(5)
the person attaches to the vehicle's front windshield a notice
prominently warning the operator not to move the vehicle;
(6)
(7)
the person takes reasonable care not to damage the vehicle; and
the owner of the property carries at least $25,000 in liability
insurance which will cover any damage to the vehicle.
(d)
Entrapment not allowed.
A person must not immobilize a motor vehicle
on private property if:
(1)
the property is a parking garage or lot which is normally used for
paid public parking and operated by an attendant;
(2)
the vehicle entered the garage or lot between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.;
and
(3)
the garage or lot was unattended, and access to the garage or lot
was not physically blocked, when the vehicle entered.
(e)
Release of vehicle.
A person who is authorized to release immobilized
vehicles must:
(1)
arrive as promptly as possible, but
in
any case within 30 minutes
after the owner or operator of an immobilized vehicle calls the
telephone number listed on the sign posted at the property and
requests the release ofthe vehicle;
(2)
immediately release the vehicle after a lawful release fee is paid;
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BILL No. 17-15
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(3)
not require the vehicle owner or operator to waive any right to
receive compensation for damages to the vehicle; and
(4)
give the operator ofthe vehicle a receipt which legibly shows:
(A)
(B)
(C)
the release fee paid,
the date, time, and location ofthe release, and
the name of the person who received the payment and any
business for which the person acted.
(f)
Maximum rate.
A person must not charge more to release an
unauthorized vehicle than a maximum rate set by the County Executive
by regulation under method (2). The Executive must set a maximum
rate which fairly compensates the property owner for the reasonable
cost of immobilization, but which does not exceed $50, and must review
the maximum rate at least every 2 years.
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(g)
Payment and promise to pay.
A person who is authorized to release
immobilized vehicles must accept payment:
(1)
in cash, or by a traveler's check accompanied by reasonable
identification;
(2)
by a personal check, accompanied by reasonable identification, if
the vehicle is registered
in
Maryland; or
(3)
by the 2 most widely used major credit cards, as defmed by the
Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
In
addition, if
the person, or the business which employs the person, accepts
any other credit card for any other purpose, the person must
accept that credit card for this purpose.
The remedies
in
Section 30C-8(b)(5)-(6) apply to any payment under
this section.
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No.
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(h)
No lien.
This section does not create or imply a lien in favor of any
person when such a lien would not otherwise exist. This section does
not give any person a right to retain possession of any vehicle it would
otherwise have to return to the vehicle owner.
(i)
Public property.
Only a properly authorized agent of a government
agency with jurisdiction over a public road or other public property may
immobilize a motor vehicle on that road or property.
0)
Enforcement; police power.
The Department of Housing and
Community Affairs and the Police Department enforce this section. A
police officer may order a person not to immobilize a vehicle) or to
release an immobilized vehicle without payment) at any time to prevent
a breach of the peace or if the officer has reasonable cause to believe
that the immobilization would be or was unlawful.
(k)]
Civil remedy.
Any person whose vehicle has been unlawfully
immobilized) unlawfully held after being lawfully immobilized) or
damaged while immobilized, may recover from the owner of the
property or any other person responsible for immobilizing the vehicle)
in a civil action, the greater of:
(1)
(2)
all actual damages sustained; or
liquidated damages of$100.
This remedy does not replace or limit any other remedy available by
law.
Approved:
340
George Leventhal, President, County Council
Date
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LEGISLATIVE REQUEST REPORT
Bil117-15
Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property
-
Amendments
DESCRIPTION:
Bill 17-15 would amend the County's towing and vehicle
immobilization law to authorize the County Executive to set flat rates
for certain towing services; add certain notice and towing procedure
requirements; provide certain additional enforcement powers for the
Office of Consumer Protection; and prohibit the immobilization of
certain vehicles.
"Trespass towing," the towing of a motor vehicle from private
property for compensation without the consent of the vehicle owner,
is subject to certain predatory practices which lead to confrontations
that threaten public safety.
To protect public safety by strengthening the regulation of trespass
towing in the County.
Office of Consumer Protection
To be requested.
To be requested.
To be requested.
To be researched.
Josh Hamlin, 240-777-7892
To be researched.
PROBLEM:
GOALS AND
OBJECTIVES:
COORDINATION:
FISCAL IMPACT:
ECONOMIC
IMPACT:
EVALUATION:
EXPERIENCE
ELSEWHERE:
SOURCE OF
INFORMATION:
APPLICATION
WlTIDN
MUNICIPALITIES:
PENALTIES:
Subject to Class "A" violation.
F:\LAw\BILLS\15xx Towing\LEGISLATIVE REQUEST REPORT.Doc