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CALL 6: Your car was towed ... was it legal?

Posted: 10:35 PM, May 18, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-19 00:20:57-04
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. -- It’s one of the worst feelings in the world: coming out of a restaurant or a store and seeing your car towed away. But was it done legally?
 
Call 6 Investigates started looking into the issue in Noblesville after Shadd Burchette contacted the Call 6 Tip Line. He says his car was towed by Brooks Service II from outside a business on a Saturday.
 
“I pulled into a very small parking lot and I start looking and there is no place to park really
close to it,” Burchette says. “I saw a business that looked like it was closed and nobody was in any of the parking spots.”
 
Burchette parked in the spot and brought his 7-month-old and 4-year-old into a birthday party at Jump N Play in Noblesville.
 
“I was probably only there for 45 minutes by the time they towed the car,” Burchette says.
 
According to Indiana Law, that wasn’t allowed. According to Indiana Code 9-22-1, the notice tag must be placed in a prominent place with the date, time, name, and address of the person who owns or controls the private property and a telephone number to contact for information.
 
After placing the tag, the property owner or tow company is required to wait 24 hours before the vehicle can be towed off the property.
 
But that's not true in all cases. The law goes on to say that the vehicle may be removed immediately in the event of an emergency situation.
 
An emergency situation means the vehicle interferes physically with the conduct of normal business operations of the person who owns or controls the private property, or poses a threat to the safety or security of persons or property.
 
Burchette tracked down the tow company and found out they are closed on Saturday and had to wait until Monday to get his SUV back.
 
But he had another problem, his kids’ car seats were being held hostage inside the SUV. Burchette headed down to the tow yard and saw his car being unloaded from the tow truck.
 
Burchette tells Call 6 Investigates’ Paris Lewbel that he pleaded with the driver to get his car seats out of the car and he wouldn’t budge on the issue. Burchette says he eventually called Noblesville police to the yard for help and they were able to get the car seats out of the car.
 
He returned to the yard on Monday to get his car. He didn’t just bring cash; he also brought knowledge of Indiana’s towing laws and decided to record the whole thing on his cell phone.
 
Before he forked over the $310 to get his car out, he asked the owner and an employee of Brooks Service about Indiana’s towing law.
 
The owner, James Ringley, told Burchette, “You need to read the code a little more specifically.”
 
Call 6 Investigates tried to talk to someone at Brooks Service. Every time we showed up there was no one at the yard.
 
We finally got in touch with Ringley on the phone so we could get his side of the story. He said that in every news story on towing, the towing company always looks like the bad guy and declined our request for an interview.
 
During our research, most cities and agencies do not enforce that 24-hour tagging law. In instance after instance of asking cities and police departments about it, we were told it would be considered a civil matter and the case would have to be taken to small claims court.