Orange County Sheriff’s Department Seeks Spike in Car Impound FeesVoice of OC


Orange County sheriff officials are asking to almost triple the fee charged to most people whose cars are impounded by police, with county supervisors scheduled to vote today on whether to approve the fee increase.

The proposal, which covers more than 90 percent of cars impounded by the Sheriff’s Department, would increase vehicle impound fees from the current $50 to a proposed $144.

The fee increase would apply to people whose vehicles are towed in the 13 cities and dozens of unincorporated areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department.

The higher fees would apply to a large majority of the reasons cars are impounded – ranging from having multiple unpaid parking citations or out of date registration, to parking over 72 hours in one spot, to a car being seized as evidence in a crime.

In their official staff report, sheriff officials say the increase is meant to recover their actual costs to process impounds, after salary increases have increased staffing costs since the fee was last set in the year 2000.

At the same time, there are concerns the increase will disproportionately affect the poorest residents of Orange County, especially homeless people whose cars are seized for failing to pay parking citations or vehicle registration.

“Charging these administrative fees for impounding cars that happen to be a lifeline for people who are experiencing homelessness and can’t afford the high cost of living in Orange County really amounts to extracting money from our most economically disadvantaged community members to fund our public services,” said Eve Garrow, homelessness policy analyst and advocate at the ACLU of Southern California.

“These services are supposed to be public. We shouldn’t be funding them off of the backs of our poorest community members.”

Garrow said the most common reasons she hears of homeless people’s car being impounded are multiple unpaid parking tickets, which she says can add up when cities ban overnight parking.

“Not only are their cars impounded often because they’re too poor to afford parking tickets that they may receive for example, or too poor to pay for their registration fee, but then they’re impounded and they can’t get them back without paying these exorbitant fines and fees, which it sounds like they’re increasing,” she added. “And that just contributes to the cycle of poverty and homelessness.”

Sheriff officials say they’re simply recouping their costs, and that there’s a process for people to get help with paying citations if they can’t afford the fines.

“When we issue citations now, there is a process for claiming [indigence] and saying that you don’t have the money,” said Sgt. Dennis Breckner, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.


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