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To tow or not to tow ...

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois Topics:  Viking Dodge

To tow or not to tow ...

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
July 4, 2011

That should be the question!

Should police automatically tow the vehicle of a driver who is stopped in Woodstock, when an officer recognizes the driver as the subject of a warrant just issued that day?

Let's assume the warrant is for a non-violent offense, a misdemeanor, and not related to DUI. Let's say the vehicle is not owned by the driver but is in his legal possession.

Let's say the owner or another responsible party, a licensed driver, could come quickly to the location of the stop and drive the car home.

Instead, what happens is that the Woodstock P.D. drums up a little business for one of the tow companies on its approved list and calls them to tow the vehicle. The cost to the owner of the vehicle? $95.00!

Now, let's say the owner and the driver don't have the $95 for the tow bill. What happens? The vehicle sits in the impound yard of the tow company, racking up daily storage fees of $40. That's $40.00 every day, until the car can be retrieved. If the owner had to wait two weeks until the next paycheck, that would be $560 ($40 x 14) just in storage charges! Some people might never see their car again!

Or suppose the owner wanted the car towed by his own choice of tow service. Would the police allow that?

If the stop is made in a safe place or the car can be moved a short distance, what's wrong with locking it up and leaving it there? Assuming telephone contact with the owner and the owner's statement that he will respond immediately to pick up the keys and move the vehicle.

I can already hear the screams from the P.D. "We can't do that." "We've never done that." We'd be liable..." "What if the car is there overnight? There is a law in Woodstock against overnight street parking."

Yeah, right. And the fine for parking on the street overnight is $5.00. Or is it $10 now?

Here's a radical idea. Tell the driver to drive over to the police station and park the car in the front lot. And that, if he fails to do so, he'll be charged with failing to obey orders of a police officer.

I'll bet a lot of warrants in Woodstock could be served by contacting the wanted person and telling him to come to the P.D. Go ahead and give the officer a "gold star" for that arrest, too. After all, he "got his man."

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