Tag: illegal towing

You fell victim to predatory towing tactics. You call the police, but they say it is a civil matter, and won’t help you. They tell you that your only choice is to take them to civil court. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, if the predatory towing companies have their way in Florida, after July 2019 you will no longer be able to take them to court.

HOW PREDATORY TOWING COMPANIES ARE TRYING TO CHANGE THE LAW

Florida Statute 715.07 allows for people to fight back against predatory towing companies by suing them in civil court. This is possible by a provision in the statute that makes the companies liable for your towing costs, court costs, damages, etc. This law has been on the books since 1976.

Instead of abiding by the law, predatory towing operators have come up with a different idea: they are going to change the law in Tallahassee. As we speak, the Florida legislature is considering a towing lobby sponsored bill to remove all the protections that the law has afforded to the people. And the bill appears to be clearing every committee without opposition.

WHO WOULD WANT TO TAKE AWAY PEOPLE’S ABILITY TO FIGHT BACK WHEN THEY ARE VICTIMIZED BY PREDATORY TOWING PRACTICES?

The answer to this can be found in the public records. Senate bill 1792 (which is the bill that intends to make it easier for towing companies to prey on people) was introduced by Senator Joe Gruters from District 23 in Sarasota. Its house counterpart was introduced by Representatives Stan Mcclain, from Ocala, and Mel Ponder, from Okaloosa.

Proponents of the Predatory Towing Bill

WHY WOULD A POLITICIAN WANT TO MAKE ITS CONSTITUENTS AN EASIER TARGET OF PREDATORY TOWING PRACTICES?

The answer to this question is not as clear. Politicians are supposed to represent the interests of the people. It is hard to fathom why anyone who represents the people would back a bill that would make it so that people are easier to victimize by towing companies. After all, people are already getting crushed by these predatory companies with the current law in place.

Why would anyone want to legitimize predatory practices against the very people that he or she is supposed to represent? The answer to that is lobbyists. Tracking the progress of these bills gives you a direct look into how special interest groups have taken control of our democracy.

WHO IS BEHIND THESE PREDATORY CHANGES?

The following is a list of the players who are in the open about pushing this bill. There are probably many more players who are in the shadows:

  1. David Custin (Lobbyist) – Beach Towing Services (Miami Beach towing company)
  2. Sam Brewer – Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida.
  3. Jase Diaz (Lobbyist) – Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida.
  4. Mike Seamon (Lobbyist) – Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida.

Unsurprisingly, the only people in favor of this change in the law is the towing lobby. What is surprising is that with only the towing lobby in support, these bills are swiftly making their way through each committee. The very committees that are supposed to be in place to protect the will of the people.

What’s even more outrageous is that the change in the law is literally to make it so that towing companies who tow illegally cannot be sued. When was the last time that we as a people wanted to change the law to protect bad actors? And why is the towing lobby behind this change, if it proclaims to be a good citizen of our communities?

The answer is simple, towing companies want to continue to victimize you, and they want to be able to do it with impunity. The sad part about it is that they may be able to do it, with the help of your Florida legislator.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

Let the representatives and senators know that you do not like the idea of being preyed upon by predatory towing companies, and that you don’t support these bills.

The Towing bill (Senate Bill 1792) is coming before the Infrastructure and Security Committee on 04/02/19. The people who can vote on that committee are:

  1. Senator Tom Lee – (850) – 487 – 5020
  2. Senator Keith Perry – (850) – 487 – 5008
  3. Senator Aaron Bean – (850) – 487 – 5004
  4. Senator Janet Cruz – (850) – 487 – 5018
  5. Senator Ed Hooper – (850) – 487 – 5016
  6. Senator Travis Hutson – (850) – 487 – 5007
  7. Senator Linda Stewart – (850) – 487 – 5013
  8. Senator Annette Taddeo – (850) – 487 – 5040

Give them a call, let them know that predatory towing companies don’t need a change in the law, they need to start following the rules.

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If you’ve lived in Miami for any period of time you’ve undoubtedly experienced being towed from private property. Maybe you parked your car and went to Publix and then walked to the restaurant across the street for a couple of minutes to pick up the take-out you ordered, only to find your car on the back of a pickup truck upon your return. Or maybe you’re an Uber Eats driver, making a 3 minutes delivery, only to see your car disappear before you make it back. Whatever the case may be, know that you’re not alone. These predatory towing practices happen every day in Miami, and they are often illegal.

These companies want you to believe that if you accidentally overstayed your parking, or did not see the hidden “Tow Away” signs you’re SOL. But did you know that despite what the tow truck companies tell you, you have rights?

Most States and municipalities have laws in place to regulate the illegal and predatory towing practices that towing companies are well known for. Because of this, even if you accidentally overstayed your parking, or did not see the Tow-Away signs, you may be able to get your money back.

Miami Dade county is no different.

Illegal Towing In Miami: Your Rights

A Florida Statute, as well as Miami Dade county ordinances regulate towing in Miami Dade County. The Florida Statute sets a minimum threshold of rights, while the Miami Dade County and City ordinances add an extra layer of protection to the consumer.

If you’re towed in Miami you should know the following:

  • If the tow truck driver is in the process of towing your car when you return to your car, the driver has to release your car for 50% of the maximum towing rate. In Miami Dade County the maximum towing rate for a Class “A” (most regular cars) tow is $101.00. This means that in these cases you’re entitled to get your car back for $50.50.
  • If you’re towed in Miami you have the right to have access to your car to retrieve your paperwork, even if you have not paid to have the car released.
  • Before you can be towed from a private lot in the Miami, the tow truck operator is required to have a written directive from the owner or authorized representative of the property owner to tow your particular car. This means that the act of patrolling a lot looking for violations is illegal. Note that this only applies during the hours of operation for the business that owns the lot.
  • Also, in order for a tow company to be able to tow your car the company needs to have a written agreement with the owner of that lot.
  • A tow company is required to get you an itemized receipt once you pay to get your car back.

Things To Keep In Mind

No Help From City or County Officials

If you’re a victim of illegal towing in Miami you should know that the county and the city are not going to be of much help. For decades these towing companies have been carrying out illegal tows in Miami. The behavior is so common and widespread that city and county officials that we’ve dealt at times don’t even seem to know that it is illegal.

But, but, the Police will certainly help me, right?!?

illegal towing in Miami

Unfortunately, the police will not help you. If you are towed in Miami, the police will say that whether you were properly towed or not is a civil dispute. They will say this even though a lot of towing violations that happen in Miami are actually criminal offenses in nature. Simply put, the police believes it has better things to do than keeping the towing companies from stealing your hard-earned money and holding your car hostage.

Towing Charges Will Accrue

If you are towed in Miami, you should pay to have your car returned to you as soon as possible. This is because the longer the car stays at the lot, the more money you’ll need to pay them to get it out. If the tow was an illegal tow, you’ll be able to fight it later on. There’s no reason to leave the car in the tow lot.

Tow Companies Will Charge For Services Not Rendered

Tow truck companies will try to charge you for things that they are not allowed to. They do this because they know that most people feel that they are in a hopeless situation and have no real remedy. They also do this because they know that some of these charges are hard to disprove.

Although every now and then this happens on video: https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-beach-cracks-down-on-bogus-towing-fees-after-complaint-10649222

Tow Truck Companies Will Try To Bully You

The tow truck companies will try to bully you by telling you anything that they can to discourage you from fighting the tow. Many of our clients have been told by tow truck operators that they have lawyers on retainer, that they will win in court regardless, that you won’t hire a lawyer because it is too expensive, and many other things.

Do not fall for those claims.

The reality is that very often these companies are operating illegally. Because of that, you are very likely to win in court if you have a good lawyer.

Hiring a lawyer will also not cost you any money. This is because we handle these cases on a contingency fee basis. Meaning, you do not pay us anything out of pocket for us to handle your case.

Signs Of Illegal Towing In Miami

While these signs do not always indicate illegal towing in Miami, in our experience they are a good indicator that something is wrong. If you experience any of these, keep your eyes open and document as much as you can.

  • The tow truck company tells you that they only accept cash.
  • The lot where you were towed from had no signage warning you that you could be towed.
  • The tow truck company refused to give you a receipt.
  • The tow truck company damaged your car, but claims it didn’t cause the damage.
  • Your car is towed within minutes of you parking.
  • The tow truck tows your car, even though you’re inside of it.
  • The tow truck operator wants to charge you over $100 for a drop fee (i.e. releasing your car on scene)

What Should I Do If Towed In Miami?

If you are towed in Miami you should do the following:

  • Take photos of all the entrances of the lot from which you were towed. This evidence will be very important later.
  • Take photos of the payment machine in the lot, if there is one.
  • Pay to have your car back as soon as possible.
  • Make sure that you get, and keep, the tow receipt.

After you’ve done the above, give us a call at 305-501-8021. We are on a mission to eliminate these illegal towing practices one case at a time.

If you’re interested to know more about our crusade to crush illegal towing and booting practices in South Florida check out our article.

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The towing and booting industries arose out of the idea that private lots should not be occupied by the cars of people who are not clients of the businesses for which the lot is in place. The advent of “pay to park” lots caused these industries to expand into “enforcing” the payments at these lots. The idea was still the same–to make sure that cars that are not supposed to be parked there are removed or penalized in some way so as to incentivize people to use the lots correctly. It was a good idea at the time, little did anyone know that it would lead to predatory towing and booting tactics.

The Rise of Predatory Towing and Booting Behavior

After a while, the industry realized that there was a lot of money to be made by towing and booting people, even if space in the lots was not scarce. And so, these companies decided that they would tow and boot for the sake of towing and booting, even if the cars that they were towing or booting were in no way interfering with the orderly flow of business in that lot. After this realization a feeding frenzy began, one that would affect almost every family in South Florida.

You don’t have to go far to get a feel for the extent of the abuse. A simple internet search reveals plenty:

-Local 10 Reports Sunny Isles Towing Abuse
-Miami New Times Reports On Companies Charging Bogus Fees
-Sun Sentinel: Towing Abuses Still Rampant In Broward
-King Wrecker Uses Falsified Documents To Justify Tows
-Tow Trucks Overcharging While Law Enforcement Looks Away

Our Government’s Flawed Response

In response to this industry feeding frenzy, and with the goal of protecting the people, counties began implementing regulations to try to prevent predatory towing practices. Regulations to address predatory booting practices followed shortly thereafter. While the goal of these regulations was to curb predatory towing practices, the regulations’ implementation left much to be desired. The cities and counties never really had the funding to enforce them, and predatory towing behavior continued to be rampant. Predatory booting behavior also continued to rise.

Because of the lack of enforcement, a lot of these companies saw these regulations as a joke, and decided to not even pretend to follow them. When people who were towed or booted in a predatory fashion would call the police, the police would say they could not do anything about it. That it was a “civil matter.” They would say this, even though most of the regulations make it a criminal act to tow or boot illegally. The reality was that the police departments think that they have better things to do than enforcing towing regulations.

The End Result

Because of the government’s lack of enforcement, towing and booting companies realized that they were free to hold people’s cars hostage even though these companies themselves were operating illegally. People were stuck paying these companies exorbitant fees to get their cars back because they felt that they had nowhere to turn. In their minds, going to court by themselves was too complicated, and paying a lawyer would cost significantly more than the fee charged by the towing or booting company. And even if someone wanted to hire a lawyer to fight these predatory towing and booting companies, no law firms in town were doing this kind of work.

The situation seemed hopeless.

Our Response

We at Cornish Hernandez Gonzalez realized that there is a large portion of our community that is being victimized by these predatory towing and booting companies. Hard working people who park somewhere for a few minutes, only to be illegally towed or booted and have their cars held for ransom. Single mothers who are trying to run a five minute errand and park their car in an empty lot, not knowing that there are predators hiding in the shadows, hoping they can make hundreds of dollars over her five minute mistake.

We decided that someone had to take a stand against these predatory practices. And while we are primarily known for working to correct injustice in the personal injury and criminal defense arenas, we feel strongly that injustice in any form should not be allowed to exist in our community.

How We Are Correcting It

We have made it our purpose in 2019 to correct these predatory towing and booting practices in our community by filing cases in court on behalf of people who have been abused by these companies. We handle these cases on a contingency fee basis. That means that we do not actually charge you anything, and we only get paid if we recover for you.

We hope that by doing this we can give these companies something to think about before deciding to take advantage of another person in our community.

To learn more about how we handle these cases, go here.

If you have been towed or booted in South Florida, give us a call at 305-501-8021, or fill out the form in this page. We would love to have you join our battle against these predatory towing and booting companies.

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