Vehicle Impoundment Fact Sheet
Q: My vehicle has been towed because of unlawful drugs, DUI, dumping, unlawful firearm, solicitation of a prostitute, sound device restrictions or unlawful fireworks. How can I retrieve it?
A: By paying to retrieve your vehicle:
You can retrieve your vehicle by paying an administrative penalty (fine) at the Department of Revenue. This payment center is located at 400 West Superior only. The vehicle owner can pay the amount of the fine plus the cost of towing and storage. The advantage to this option is the immediate release of the vehicle, and storage fees stop accruing when the vehicle is retrieved. If the vehicle is also subject to booting for unpaid parking tickets and/or compliance violations, the owner of the vehicle must also pay the amounts due for all such outstanding violations prior to the release of the vehicle. The owner can still apply to the Department of Administrative Hearings for a full hearing.
B: By filing a written request for a full hearing:
The owner of a vehicle can make a written request for a full hearing with the Department of Administrative Hearings. This request must be made no later than 15 days after notice of impoundment was mailed or otherwise iven. The date of the full hearing will be mailed to the vehicle owner.
If the owner wins their hearing, the final order needs to be taken to the Revenue Payment Center at 400 West Superior the same day of the hearing decision to obtain a receipt for release of the vehicle. The Auto Pound will not release the vehicle without it. If you fail to obtain a receipt from the 400 West Superior Payment Center and/or redeem your vehicle from the Auto Pound within the number of days listed on the adminstrative order, you will be charged storage for every day thereafter until you pick up your vehicle.
If the Administrative Law Judge finds the owner liable, the vehicle will not be released until the owner pays the fine plus the costs of towing and storage. If the vehicle is also subject to booting for unpaid parking tickets and/or compliance violations, the owner of the vehicle must also pay the amounts due for all such outstanding violations prior to the release of the vehicle. If an owner who has already paid to have his/her vehicle released from the auto pound is found “not liable”, his/her money will be refunded by the Department of Revenue.
C: By requesting a preliminary hearing:
You can attempt to retrieve your vehicle by requesting a “Preliminary Hearing”. Within 15 days after the vehicle is seized, the vehicle owner can request a preliminary hearing at the Department of Administrative Hearings’ Main Information Desk. Once your preliminary hearing is scheduled, you will be sent to the appropriate hearing room to discuss the matter with the City’s Corporation Counsel. Please note that the Corporation Counsel has a legal right to request from the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) a 48-hour extension (excluding Saturday, Sundays and legal holidays) to acquire any pertinent documents regarding your case. Subsequently, you may have to appear for hearing on more than two occasions. At your preliminary hearing, the Administrative Law Judge decides if there was probable cause that the vehicle was used in violation of the Municipal Code.
The vehicle owner may present evidence of the following defenses to the impoundment.
- The vehicle was stolen at the time and the theft was reported to the appropriate police authorities within 24-hours after the theft was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
- The vehicle was operating as a common carrier (taxi cab, livery, etc…) and the violation occurred without the knowledge of the person in control of the vehicle.
- The vehicle had been donated, traded-in or sold to another person prior to the violation.
It is not a defense that a criminal court dismissed a case or suppressed evidence within a criminal proceeding. The prosecutor in a criminal matter must prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt”. This is a higher burden than the one used at DOAH. In criminal cases, the Defendant faces a period of incarceration. In an impoundment case, the Administrative Law Judge determines whether it is “more likely than not” that you are liable. The burden the City must carry is lower because the penalties are civil; i.e. money damages. In addition, criminal cases are sometimes dismissed due to different evidentiary rules which apply to criminal cases. In an impoundment case, the City may still use this evidence in determining liability.
If you do not succeed at the preliminary hearing, the vehicle remains impounded pending a full hearing. However, the owner can pay the penalty to redeem their vehicle from the impoundment lot.
Q: I was not the driver of the vehicle at the time it was impounded nor was I the passenger who was found with drugs on them. Why am I being held responsible?
A: The Chicago Municipal code imposes responsibility on the owner of a vehicle regardless of who was driving, that is used in violation of any one of 19 impoundment offenses. The most common of these offenses involve vehicles that contain: illegal drugs, an illegally transported firearm, vehicles that are used while driving under the influence (DUI) or used in the solicitation of a prostitute.Specifically, code section 7-24-225 imposes responsibility on the owner of a vehicle that contains any illegal drugs, i.e.; controlled substance or cannabis with no exceptions.
Q: I won my (DUI/DRUG/GUN) case in the Circuit Court. Can I get my car out of the pound without paying? If not, why doesn’t Administrative Hearings take this decision into consideration when I have my hearing?
A: As previously mentioned in section #1, although you won your Circuit Court case you cannot get your car out of the pound without paying or by being found not liable at an administrative hearing.It is not a defense that a criminal court dismissed a case or suppressed evidence. The prosecutor in a criminal matter must prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt”. This is a higher burden than the one used at DOAH. In criminal cases, the Defendant faces a period of incarceration. In an impoundment case, the Administrative Law Judge determines whether it is “more likely than not” that you are liable. The burden the City must meet carry is lower because the penalties are civil; i.e. money damages. In addition, criminal cases are sometimes dismissed due to different evidentiary rules which apply to criminal cases. In an impoundment case, the City may still use this evidence in determining liability.
Q: I received a notice of impoundment for a vehicle I never owned, or for a vehicle that I sold, donated or traded-in before the impoundment. What can I do to address this matter?
A:If you received a notice of impoundment on a vehicle you never owned, or for a vehicle that you donated, previously owned or sold prior to the impoundment you may fax supporting documents showing proof of the vehicle transactions to Administrative Hearings at 312.742.8248. . Satisfactory proof could include a charitable receipt, trade-in form from an auto dealership, bill of sale, letter between two parties indicating a curb-side sale, copy of a signed title between parties, or any Secretary of State documentation such as a revoked/transferred title, vehicle registration number or license plate.
Q: What if I do not request a hearing within 15 days after the vehicle is impounded? What if I fail to attend a hearing?
A: Whether or not the person in control of the vehicle was served with notice, the City always mails notice of the impoundment to the registered owner of the vehicle. As previously mentioned in section #1-C above, the owner must file a written request for a hearing with the Department of Administrative Hearings no later then 15 days after notice was mailed or otherwise given. If the owner does not make a timely request for a hearing, a default order will be entered against the owner for the penalty amount, plus towing and storage fees. The owner will have 21 days to file a motion to set-aside the default order.