Spencer Byrd, a Chicago resident and part-time auto mechanic, was giving a client whose car was broken a ride home when the Chicago police stopped him for having a broken turn signal. Chicago police searched Spencer and his client and, while they found nothing on Spencer, they discovered a bag of heroin in the client’s pocket. Even though Spencer did not know about the drugs, the officers impounded his car.
A Cook County Circuit Court judge was moved by Spencer’s story and ordered that his car be returned. Despite that order, however, the city will not release Spencer’s car until he pays all of the towing and storage fees. Adding insult to injury, the city will not even permit Spencer to retrieve his tools—which he needs for his work. Spencer cannot afford the fees, and so the car stays in the pound. Today, the total balance of storage and towing fees that Spencer would need to pay to reclaim his car is more than $17,000. Spencer continues to be punished not for what he did, but for the actions of another person. So Spencer is fighting back with a lawsuit to end Chicago’s unconstitutional impound racket.