Tow fees are constitutional, Alton says in motion to dismiss

By Christina Stueve | Apr 26, 2012

Schrempf The City of Alton claims that challenges to administrative tow fee ordinances have been upheld by several Illinois courts.


The City of Alton claims that challenges to administrative tow fee ordinances have been upheld by several Illinois courts.

The city, which is fighting a class action brought by a Jerseyville man last December, filed an amended motion to dismiss the case on April 18

Matthew Carter claims he was arrested June 26, 2011 and says he was forced to pay a $500 administrative fee to Alton to retrieve his impounded vehicle.

The city adopted an ordinance on Jan. 1, 2010, requiring persons to pay the Alton Police Department an administration fee if their vehicle is towed and is impounded incidental to a custodial arrest for one of the offenses listed in the ordinance, which includes driving under the influence.

According to Carter's complaint, the tow release fees required minimal time and cost to the city, requiring Alton police department employees to write a receipt for payment of the required tow fee, which is more than what is required by other defendant city ordinances.

According to the city's amended motion to dismiss, the plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, as he misstated the purpose of the ordinance.

"The ordinance's purpose is to recover a portion of the resources expended in the towing and impoundment of motor vehicles, including time of the Police Department personnel, expended on those important activities," the city claims.

Attorney James Schrempf of Alton represents the city.

"The plaintiff fails to state a claim as a matter of law as several Illinois courts have upheld similar administrative $500 fee ordinances imposed by other cities associated with the impoundment and towing of vehicles," the motion states.

"The ordinance imposed by the city of Alton is rational and constitutional. The ordinance is supported by at least two studies to support the fees imposed by the City of Alton and is now expressly allowed by Illinois State Law."

In an amended memorandum of law in support of motion to dismiss, Alton claims the plaintiff's complaint is barred as a matter of law.

"Studies show a rational basis exists for the administration fee imposed by city ordinance as the fee is related to recoup costs expended by the City of Alton," the memorandum states.

Carter and the proposed class are represented by Brian Polinske of Edwardsville and Eric D. Holland and Steven L. Groves of Holland, Groves, Schneller and Stolze in St. Louis.

Attorney Alvin Paulson of the firm Becker, Paulson, Hoerner & Thompson withdrew from the case as attorney for Alton, because "there is no insurance coverage in this matter."

He says he was told by the Illinois Municipal League to withdraw his appearance.

Alton is one of four Madison County municipalities being sued over towing fees; the others are Collinsville, Edwardsville and Granite City.

Lawyers for plaintiffs and defense are asking Associate Judge Thomas Chapman, who presides, to consolidate the four proposed class action cases in Madison County.

Similar class actions were filed against O'Fallon and Fairview Heights last December and are pending in St Clair County Circuit Court.

Madison Case number 11-L-1305.

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