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Kansas City, Missouri Under Fire For Predatory Towing
Lawsuit accuses Kansas City, Missouri of towing legally parked cars for profit.

Impound lot photo by Steve Rainwater/Flickr
A motorist whose car was wrongly towed in Kansas City, Missouri, is calling for reform. Dyanna Black and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched a federal lawsuit challenging the lack of due process found in city impounding procedures that require payment of massive fees for the return of cars that should never have been seized in the first place.

On February 2, 2016, Black legally parked her car on 16th Street near Wyandotte Street, but when she returned some time later, the car was gone. She thought her car was stolen, but she eventually found it had been taken to an impound lot where she learned a police officer issued a parking ticket and had the vehicle impounded.

Black decided to challenge the ticket. After waiting six hours in the courtroom, Black made her case and a Kansas City municipal judge who agreed that the ticket was inappropriate, but the court was powerless to order a refund of the $265 towing fees. Likewise, the city's towing ordinance makes no provision for refunds.

"What happens when law enforcement gets it wrong?" Black asked in a statement. "Kansas City should have a system for reimbursement in place and be accountable to the people who live here. 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."

Kansas City's 2019 budget allocates $4.5 million to towing services, and those services generate millions more from monthly car auctions. The latest auction lists 49 vehicle the city intends to sell solely because they were alleged to have parked illegally. In 2013, the city towed a total of 7697 automobiles, 1159 of which were towed solely for parking reasons.

Black and the ACLU argue that the system is designed to have no due process on purpose and that this arrangement violates constitutional due process rights. The lawsuit seeks a permanent ban on the city's predatory towing procedures.

Assistant city attorney Tara M. Kelly denied all wrongdoing on behalf of the municipality.

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