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Heroes Challenge Law Requiring You To Drive Your Car Every Three Days

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Better move it, bud (Photo by eyetwist via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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It's hard work making sure that your car is legally parked in Los Angeles. You have to read the signs and sometimes that's a real trick. You've got to double-check the color of curb. Make sure your wheels are pointed the right way on a hill. Maybe you need a permit. It can be a real ordeal, especially if you're one of those unlucky souls without an off-street parking space. After all that, the city requires you to move it three days or they'll hold your car hostage until you pay them tow it.

One couple, whose van was towed while they were out of town last September, are now suing the city over this law. Their main issue is that they had no clue the law existed, since the city doesn't put up signs anywhere warning you. The couple says they had no way of knowing about this law until it was too late and they were out $274.20 for the impound fee plus a $68 fine.

"We did not know about the rule," J. David Sackman told the Times. "We have a city parking permit and we always park in accordance with the street signs. It's a daily routine for us. But even if you try to follow the law and the signs scrupulously, you can still get towed."

The Sackmans, whose car was towed in Sawtelle, believe that towing cars that break the 72-hour rule is illegal under California Vehicle Code, which states "a vehicle shall not be removed unless signs are posted giving notice of removal." They believe the constitution guarantees them the right to be notified before the government takes their property. The case is scheduled to be heard May 8 in federal court.

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The city tows 4,539 motor vehicles, mostly on the Westside and North Hollywood, according to a Los Angeles Times map. Los Angeles has a 72-hour rule so that people don't dump their clunkers on the street and turn city streets into long-term parking lots. City officials acknowledges that they don't post the rule on any sign, though they say "ignorance of the law is no defense." (Maybe this can be added to our new "simple and obvious" new parking signs?) The city claims that court decisions rejected the argument that any notice needs to be given to tow a car after 72 hours. The couple, however, notes that in one of the cases the city cites, a federal appeals court wrote "towing without notice cannot be justified as a means of deterring illegal parking."

Here's the most obnoxious argument: the city is arguing that the 72-hour limit did not hurt the Sackmans' interest because the vehicle was not being used for three days before it was impounded. In other words: if you don't drive your car every three days, you probably won't mind the city taking it! Sackman, however, wasn't happy to find out the city had towed his car when he wanted it to drive to work one day.

Sackman notes this rule isn't enforced uniformly, and that usually the government only steps in to tow a car when an anonymous complaint is lodged. That's what happened to the Sackmans: their car was reported by a neighbor the day they went on vacation and it was towed five days later when they got back. But the Sackmans say that opens the process up to prejudice, including racial prejudice.

They've started a Facebook page and petition to protest the practice. Sackman says that he's learned his lesson, and he's started driving his car more just so he can avoid getting ticketed. Because that is what the Westside needs: more drivers.

Related:
Finally, L.A. Is Working On 'Simple And Obvious' Parking Signs