Car got towed, how do I fight the charges?
July 5, 2012 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Car got towed in San Francisco, what are my odds of getting the charges dismissed?

I parked in front of a driveway that wasn't clearly marked, and my car got towed. The eye-popping bill is equivalent to a month of rent for me.

The driveway wasn't clearly marked (fully curbed, washed out paint). There was a sign posted on the gate, which is about 20 feet away from the curb which I failed to notice until after the fact.

Two questions:

Is there any ordinance addressing signs on a private driveway? I poked around SF transportation laws, but couldn't find anything.

What else should I include in my protest letter?
posted by pakoothefakoo to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A driveway had a full curb?

You blocked a driveway with your vehicle. It's against the law. The penalties are stiff to make people remember to make them not want to do it in the future, otherwise known as a deterrent. I'm surprised you got towed instead of just ticketed though.

I got a ticket once for parking on a street you apparently can't park on. Where was the sign? It was on a pole 150' fee t away from my car and it was about 12"*10". I tried to fight it and got blank faces. Just pay it.

when you go to fight it make sure to have a good rebuttal for tips for parking legally

2. Always check for parking signs. Before parking a vehicle look 100 feet in both directions for any parking signs. Also check the curb to see if there are any color curb markings. A majority of San Francisco streets have street cleaning signs that restrict parking from once a month to every day including holidays. Many streets have daytime parking time limits, including Residential Parking Permit areas. On major streets and in the downtown area, also check that commute morning or peak hour tow-away lane restrictions are not in effect. Please call 311 to report any defaced, deficient or missing parking signs.

posted by zombieApoc at 12:03 PM on July 5, 2012

Yes a full curb, as in no indentation.

From the link you posted:

"A driveway begins at the curb cut, or the point at which the curb begins to slope downward toward street level. A vehicle parked within curb cuts can be cited and towed. Even partial encroachments into the driveway area can result in a tow."

In other words, there was no curb cut indicating that there is a driveway. No color markings neither.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2012

I had good luck in Alameda county fighting a parking ticket. San Francisco and towing is merciless. I once had to schlep from Brannon and 2nd, to the police station/impound yard in high heels (THAT will teach me).

It's a hard, hard lesson.

Whatever the towing is, that's not debatable. You have to pay that to the impound yard.

As for the ticket, you lose nothing by going to court and asking for mercy. Take pictures and for heaven's sake have them printed at a real photo developer, and enlarge them. (Don't make a judge squint at your phone.)

Be polite, don't be argumentative and state your case quickly. No excuses. I got a ticket dismissed because I claimed the sign was punctuated ambiguously. I think the judge was amused.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:15 PM on July 5, 2012

Whatever you do, get your car out of the impound yard NOW: worry about getting the charge dismissed after that, because if you think the towing charge is astronomical now, imagine it with late charges, storage charges, and/or any other kinds of charges the towing company can think up....
posted by easily confused at 1:26 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't know about where you are, but the police around here take photos now of any parking violations (except expired meters). You'll want to ask them to send you any photos if they exist. Of course take your own photos of the location, but it's further documentation that this was where you car was parked.

Also, surely a full curb over a driveway is a city code violation. Call the relevant city office and report the guy. If you can get city documentation that his driveway wasn't compliant that might also help your case.
posted by sbutler at 1:47 PM on July 5, 2012

if you want the car, pay ASAP to get it out. You can fight it after and if you win, they will refund you.
posted by couchdive at 2:05 PM on July 5, 2012

Pay the ticket now. Get a copy of the appropriate laws. In my city these are not publicly available (yeah, I know, WTF?) so I ended up getting them from the crown (or for you, prosecutor) as part of the disclosure. You will also want a copy of any schedules/regulations regarding signage. Also get regulations as to how to have a legally conforming driveway.

Read, compare, and see if the sign was legal (sounds like it wasn't a city sign, so it probably is not) and if having no curb cutout means the driveway isn't a legally conforming driveway. If so, you can fight it. If you want a mostly guaranteed win, you might want to summons someone who does permits for the city to explain to the court the driveway is, in fact, not a driveway.

If you lose, but want revenge, and the driveway isn't conforming, call the city to have the owner of the driveway fined for non-compliance. Betcha they called the city on you, so they might just stop doing that to the next person after having to pay to fix up the curb.
posted by shepd at 3:20 PM on July 5, 2012

Sorry, that should have read pay to get the car released now, don't pay the ticket, fight the ticket.
posted by shepd at 3:21 PM on July 5, 2012

I'm not sure that driveways have to be marked with paint, legally, in SF. My friend has people block his driveway all the time and asked the city to put paint on the edges to catch people's attention, and they told him he would have to pay some exorbitant sum to have it done (and can't do it himself). He chose not to have it done. To me that makes it sound like there is no rule requiring them to be marked.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:09 PM on July 5, 2012

Anecdotally, I was once ticketed (in Boston) for parking in a space that at some time during the day *became a handicapped spot*. It was not clearly marked, and who's heard of such a thing?? I took all the evidence and my argument to (whoever you take your contested tickets to) and she actually agreed with me and reversed it. Agree that you should go in with documentation and remain calm and pleasant. Worth a shot.
posted by FlyByDay at 6:56 PM on July 5, 2012

Just to verify - there was no curb cut? No driveway at all? After going back to where you where towed from can you still honestly say that you wouldn't consider it a driveway? If so, take a photo, and, after getting your car out of impound (now!), contest the ticket and make sure you bring it to court. Knowing SF, I think you are probably S.O.L, but if you can prove it to the judge, you might have a chance.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:49 AM on July 6, 2012

Do you have photographs of this curbed driveway? I've never seen such a thing in SF.
posted by chairface at 11:51 AM on July 6, 2012

Took the car out of impound immediately, but thanks for the warnings.

Looking at my photos, apparently the whole block was marginally above street level. But yes, there wasn't clear indication or cut away.

The whole building was 20 or so feet behind the curb, and the "drive way" had a gate at the end, but it looked more like a side gate than an actual garage.

Most likely I'm S.O.L., but going to challenge the tow for the hell of it.

Thanks for the advice y'alll. Lesson learned.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 12:04 PM on July 6, 2012

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