Collinsville Mayor John Miller believes his city's two-tier tow fee structure ($100 and $500) is justifiable and will be upheld in court, despite a class action lawsuit that claims assessing higher fees for drivers arrested on DUI or suspended or revoked license charges violates their due process rights.
"It's simple," Miller said. "If you break the rules you're going to have to pay for it."
Collinsville and five other Metro-East cities face class action lawsuits by plaintiffs arrested in 2010 and 2011. The plaintiffs propose to lead classes of individuals seeking refunds for administrative fees they were forced to pay to retrieve their impounded vehicles.
They claim an administrative processing fee is not related to the cost of towing, towing services or actual services provided and "has no rational basis in accomplishing the means of what the ordinance purports to do."
Miller said the tiered system is justifiable because of increased costs associated with making DUI arrests.
"The big thing is when we impound a vehicle it takes an officer a half hour to an hour to go through the vehicle and inventory everything," he said. "It takes him off the street." He also said there is paperwork related to those arrests that take up the valuable time of officers.
"Why should the law breakers get off scot free," he said.
He also had a message for those who don't want to pay higher towing fees in Collinsville:
"Just don't drive in Collinsville if you've been drinking alcohol or there is a warrant for your arrest," he said.
Miller said he did not know how much cost the city would incur defending the lawsuit. At the moment, city attorney Alvin Paulson of Belleville, who works on retainer and bills by hour, is handling the defense.
Miller said he would have preferred that Collinsville and the other cities facing similar class actions join forces in defending the cases, but he said that was not "taking shape."