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|Getting Back an Impounded Vehicle in Chicago||
Last updated: July 2015
There are 4 main reasons why the City impounds cars:
To find out why the City impounded a car, contact the City department that issued the Notice of Violation.
Find the location of towed or impounded vehicles by calling 311 or by visiting the City of Chicago's website. Payment is not accepted at the impound lot.
To get a car out of impound, a bond fee needs to be paid at the Department of Revenue counter at 400 W Superior St., Chicago, IL 60654. Any outstanding parking tickets, must also be paid before the car will be released. The Department of Revenue accepts payment in cash or by credit or debit card. Checks and money orders are not accepted.
Paying the bond fee to get the car does not prevent you from challenging the impoundment at a hearing. If the hearing is won, the bond fee will be returned.
Failure to pay to get a car out of the impound lot means incurring storage fees for every day that the car is impounded. The storage fees are large. Storage fees on a standard vehicle are $20/day for the first five days, then $35/day for each day after that. Large vehicles are charged even higher storage fees.
If the car is left at the impound lot and the ticket challenge at the hearing is won, the car will be returned to you without any charges. However, if the hearing is lost, high storage fees may be charged to get the car back. Paying to get the car out early lowers the amount of storage fees charged.
If the hearing is lost and the fees have not been paid to get the car back, the City will destroy or sell the car 15 days after all appeals attempts. The Circuit Court gives 35 days to appeal, so cars are destroyed or sold 50 days after the case is lost. Even after the City destroys or sells the car, the City will still try to collect the fines and fees that you owe for unpaid tickets and impound storage. The City can file the judgment of the administrative hearing officer at the Circuit Court and collect the fees in the same way that any judgment of court can be collected.
When a car is impounded because it contains drugs, the Chicago Police Department decides if the car should be subject to state or federal forfeiture proceedings. If the police decide the car should be forfeited, it cannot be reclaimed. If the police do not say it should be forfeited, it will be approved for release. It can take several days after the impoundment for the police to decide whether to release the car.
If the car was impounded for a “use-related” violation, a preliminary hearing may be granted. A preliminary hearing is a smaller hearing before the full hearing. Ask for a preliminary hearing within 15 days of the car being impounded. At a preliminary hearing, the City must provide evidence for why they impounded the car. Normally, they will present a police report.
If the City has a police report, or other evidence of why the car was impounded, the hearing officer will ask for any defenses. The only defense that hearing officers will listen to at a preliminary hearing is that the car was stolen, and it was reported stolen, or that the car was sold before the violation occurred. If one of these defenses is asserted, there must be proof brought to the hearing. If the preliminary hearing is lost, a full hearing may be requested where additional defenses c be presented to the hearing officer.
The City of Chicago sends fines to the person listed as the car’s registered owner with the Illinois Secretary of State. If the car was sold before it was impounded, bring proof of the sale to the hearing. Also contact the Illinois Secretary of State and get an ownership record of the vehicle.
Generally, the Chicago Municipal Code holds the person listed as the car’s registered owner with the Illinois Secretary of State responsible, not the driver. In most cases, owners can be fined even if they were not driving and did not know how the car was being used.
You may have a defense. You will need to prove that:
“Gone on arrival” fines are issued when a Chicago police officer, or other City agent, decides to impound a car, but someone moves the car before the tow truck arrives. If the City agent failed to place a notice of impoundment (normally an orange sticker) on the car, that may be used as a defense to the “gone on arrival” fine.
If the hearing is lost, the City is often willing to waive the impound storage fees in exchange for title to the car. However, the City commonly still requires payment of the actual violation fine amount, the tow cost, and the first day of storage fee. It is up to the City to decide if the title of the car can be signed over in exchange for the impound storage fees. Ask for more information at the Department of Streets & Sanitation counter at 400 W Superior, Chicago IL 60654.
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