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“How long must an officer wait after ticketing to tow?”

by Prince Of Petworth June 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm 27 Comments


Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

“Dear PoPville,

Recently my boyfriend parked my car- and forgot to read the signs. The car was towed and re-located, and a ticket was issued for a parking infraction as well as for the relocation. Looking at the tickets it was a total of 8 minutes between the initial ticket and tow ticket. This, to me, seems totally unreasonable. Is there a law on the books that states a timeframe that must pass between the original ticket being issued and a tow taking place? If so, as my boyfriend is not the owner of the car, would we be able to fight this?”

  • stacksp

    Its not the time frame, its the location. Some areas are automatic tow locations where any ticket results in a tow. For example, parking on say H st across from Walmart or Mass Avenue during rush hour (after 4pm) is an auto-tow zone.

    The brightside is that they just relocate as opposed tp really towing you somewhere out of the way, The downside is the $250.

    At least its not a boot.

  • Anon

    If you were parked in a rush hour spot, I’d guess that they can tow you immediately.

  • Bobert

    My guess is that this happened due to a street sweeping violation. This is the norm – they ticket and then usually do a courtesy tow around the corner to allow the street sweeping trucks to come through. Your odds of getting out of this are very, very low (as they should be – your BF should take responsibility for his actions and pay the ticket like a grownup).

    • Colhi

      +1 Getting ticketed and towed sucks. But if you are at fault just grow up and own it. You broke a law. It was clearly written about what the consequences would be.

  • Anonymous

    I feel like this is another “I made a mistake but I don’t want to have to pay for it” posts. I don’t know the answer to OP’s question but I can’t imagine why there should be a minimum period between a ticket and a tow especially if the car is blocking something that is supposed to be left open (e.g. rush hour lane, loading zone). I guess it’s worth a shot to ask and maybe there is some weird statute on the books, but I’d take the lesson of “reading the signs is part of parking the car”, pay the fine, and move on.

  • ano6

    By your own admission you violated the rules, and suffered the consequences of those actions. Now you want to fight the ticket & tow because you feel it is “unreasonable”. Good luck!

  • LCinDC

    I support an ASAP tow for any car parked on a major road at rush hour. People just don’t realize how much it impacts traffic, but it basically wipes out an entire lane and many times you just can’t see it coming until you get to the parked car…as a bus rider it’s a disaster. If this wasn’t the case, then it does seem like a ticket is appropriate and seems like it should really only be towed if it is an actual inconvenience (like blocking a lane at rush hour vs. going over a 2 hr max in a neighborhood with plentiful parking for example) or there for a very extensive period of time.

    • Jesse Best

      Totally agree that any cars parked during rush-hour should be towed immediately. They create havoc with the traffic flow and cause major back-ups. It’s very problematic on 16th Street for S1 / S2 bus riders. I never understood why DC DOT hasn’t permanently banned street parking on 16th St between U Street and Colesville Road in Silver Spring to ensure smooth traffic flow and seamless bus service. It’s a no-brainer.

      Even better would be a dedicated and protected bus lane on 16th Street shared with bicyclists. That would be AMAZING!!

      • Dan

        Because side streets don’t have enough capacity to cover the hundreds of parking spots that would get rid of?

        Don’t get me wrong, I take an S1/S2 every day and find a parked car on 16th happens at least 3x a week, but I also already have enough trouble finding parking in Lanier Heights and have to park on Irving 1/2 the time [and yes I expect folks to say ‘don’t own a car / you chose to live just north of Adams Morgan, I get it, let’s not change the topic]

        • Commentator

          Too many people have cars in this city, and we shouldn’t retain problematic parking simply to support that habit. Regardless of what you don’t want to hear, that’s the rebuttal to your complaint about losing parking spaces.

      • lizcolleena

        Perhaps it’s just local lore but I think this was the case (no parking on 16th) until Marion Barry stepped in and said that DC residents shouldn’t be inconvenienced to make MD commuters’ lives easier. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, necessarily, but I’d still rather have no parking on 16th and better enforcement of existing parking rules on other streets (14th is a pretty rough commute for buses too).

      • A dedicated rush hour bus lane is coming to 16th St. See https://ddot.dc.gov/page/16th-street-nw-transit-priority-planning-study. There’s a meeting tonight, 6/15, at the Mount Pleasant Public Library at 6:30pm where DDOT will give a status update to the public.

  • CapitalDame

    If you park in an area that is designated as a tow zone, or during street sweeping restrictions, you should expect to be towed as soon as a truck is available to do so. The ticket is not notification to you that you parked in a tow zone, it is confirmation that the tow company legally towed your car. The sign has notified you that you are choosing to park there despite the threat of a tow. Your boyfriend should adult up and pay the fines on your behalf. Just like insurance, you take a risk when you lend someone your vehicle. The registered owner is responsible for those fines but if it were me I’d try and get him to pay for it.

  • MtP

    Agree with all the other commenters. The initial ticket is not the notice to you that you will get towed – it generally what sets the towing process in motion. The signs are the notice. I got towed once for parking on a snow emergency route (it was hardly a snow emergency), and it sucks, so I am sorry it happened to you!

  • SWChick

    I actually think a “courtesy tow” is a lifesaver. The 1st time it happened to me was about 8 years ago. I was frantic but it was MY FAULT and I was so happy that I didn’t have to pay the fine the same day. Other cities tow your car to a lot. You then must locate the lot, provide proof of ownership, walk passed the scary guard dogs at the lot and pay the fine up front. There is no reason to contest this. Its more so of a reminder to always triple check the signs.

    • jcm

      It’s definitely better than a tow to the impound lot, but it was much more courteous when it was free. They should have changed the name when they started charging. Maybe call it a “hey-it-could-be-worse tow”.

      • DCRunner

        True. Although the only time my car was courtesy-towed, it was towed to a *different* spot with a rush hour restriction. I did (successfully) fight the second ticket and second tow charge. As for the OP, I guess it can’t hurt to ask, but this really rubbed me the wrong way.

  • womp

    yeah, it’s not a ticket and tow as in “hey, here’s a ticket so we can give you some time to move your car before we tow you.” instead, it’s “here’s a ticket because you didn’t read the signs and we can’t do our job [presumably; whether it’s street sweeping or traffic flow enforcement] because your car is in the way, so we are going to tow you.”
    .
    if whoever was driving your car didn’t read the signs correctly, there is very little recourse. it falls on you since you’re the registered owner. just like if you’re the manager on a project and someone below you on the team screws up, stakeholders will still hold you accountable.

  • dcd

    Neither of these points are well taken. As others have said, relocation tows happen when you are in rush hour lane, or are otherwise impeding traffic. Why on earth would it make sense for the DC government to have a policy that requires an interval between ticketing and towing. “Yes, Susie got a ticket at 7:10 for parking in a rush hour lane, but let’s leave her car there for 90 minutes to see if she moves it. Have to be fair! Never mind that traffic is snarled up for blocks behind her.” No. Just . . . no.
    .
    Also, “as my boyfriend is not the owner of the car, would we be able to fight this?” makes even less sense. The car is parked illegally, and gets a ticket, and then is towed. As the owner of the car, that’s on you. Are you seriously suggesting that the DC government, before issuing and collecting on parking tickets, has the responsibility to determine who parked the car, and if it isn’t the owner, direct the ticket to them? Or that you somehow get out of the ticket because the person to whom you lent your car got a ticket? Come on. Collect from your boyfriend.

  • textdoc

    Agreed with other commenters — the ticket here isn’t intended to function as some kind of warning mechanism for the car owner; it just sets in motion the towing process.
    .
    Parking in a tow-away zone is an expensive mistake, but one the OP (and/or boyfriend) isn’t likely to make again.

  • atlas

    i’m impressed! i’ve heard other stories when similar law-breakers illegally temporarily abandon their cars blocking alleyways or in “temporary no parking” zones (e.g., for moving trucks), and it takes hours for the tow to happen (if at all!). really happy to see this level of efficiency, since it leads to safer roads for all of us.

  • H_E_Pennypacker

    I disagree with everyone on this page. OP is correct. The DC government was way too efficient with this tow-job. They should have wasted way more time like they do every time i need them to do something. If it takes them ten weeks to repaint crosswalk signs on a six lane street to protect pedestrians better from terrible accidents, what business do they have towing a car in 8 minutes?? As a taxpayer, i find this appalling. The D.C. government is not the private sector. I expect them to take at least two days to tow this car and I expect a massive traffic jam. How dare they work so quickly to solve a problem. Someone should pass a law to slow them down.

    • dcd

      Nicely done.

    • Tom

      Didn’t Kramer say he was a bicyclist in that episode?

      • H_E_Pennypacker

        +1 he did!

  • WineGuy

    I got towed within 10 minutes of parking downtown in a “vendor” zone by the ATT store. The signs were extremely confusing, but it was my mistake. Had to go get cash (tow yard said they didn’t take cards), take a taxi to the lot, pay $200 tow AND a $40 ticket. Having to pay over $250 for a parking mistake was painful, but I learned my lesson and I’m very careful where I park any more.

    That being said, no. The city has no obligation to “wait” for someone to move a car. No parking zones are there for a reason. Don’t want to get towed? Don’t park there when it’s not permitted.

  • soulshadow55

    When I come home from my second job at 12:30 p.m. and there’s a car in my private parking – space first of all I don’t know how long it’s been there. Second, I’ve got to call 911 and wait for an officer to show up before I can call the tow company. Which means plenty of time has transpired that the person illegally parked in my space could come and move their car. So heck yeah – once the tow truck finally comes I’m towing you. I’m not waiting around in hopes that you’ll come and move your car when you shouldn’t have parked in a “No Parking” parking space in the first place. How long would you like the government to wait? Would you feel the same if you were blocked in or if someone was parked in your space or in such a way that you were inconvenienced? Not buying your argument. Next time make sure your boyfriend reads the signs.

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