If you believe your car was impounded in error, you can contest (fight) the violation by requesting a hearing in writing or in person within 15 days after you receive notice of the impoundment. The request should be made to the Department of Administrative Hearings. Once a request is received, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled within 48 hours of the request if the request is made on a weekday and not a weekend or legal holiday. The hearing date cannot be longer than 30 days from the date of request.
If you win your hearing, you will take the order to the Revenue Payment Center and the Revenue Payment Center will give you a receipt to get your car out of impoundment. Any fees will be waived or returned. The receipt will state how much time you have to pick up your car before you will be responsible for paying storage fees.
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 attempts at appeal. 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 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.
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 your 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 can be presented to the hearing officer.
You were driving someone else’s car
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 and contact the Illinois secretary of state to get an ownership record of the vehicle.
Someone else was driving your car
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.
Someone stole your car and got a traffic violation
If your car was stolen when the traffic violation occurred, you may have a defense. You will need to prove that:
- The violation occurred while the car was stolen, and;
- The car was reported stolen to the police within 24 hours of when the theft was discovered or should have been discovered.
Gone on arrival fines
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.
Updated: June 2017