In April, IJ filed a class action lawsuit against the city of Chicago for its outrageous and abusive impound program. Under this program, the city snatches tens of thousands of cars each year and imposes harsh penalties and rapidly accruing towing and storage fees on the cars’ owners, even if they’re not guilty of any crime. The system is bursting with constitutional violations, so we teamed up with three Chicagoans to challenge it in court.
Since filing suit, IJ attorneys have heard from hundreds of Chicago residents struggling to get their cars out of impound. We’ve now added two of these individuals to the class action as named plaintiffs. These additions make our case against a system that treats innocent owners like criminals even stronger.
Allie Nelson is a retired law enforcement officer and longtime Chicagoan. Two years ago, she went to Houston to recuperate from cancer treatment. She left her car with her granddaughter, with strict instructions that her granddaughter’s then-boyfriend could not drive it. The boyfriend ignored her direction, and Allie’s car was impounded. Though Allie was innocent of any wrongdoing and the city ultimately dropped charges against her granddaughter’s boyfriend, Chicago still ordered Allie to pay nearly $6,000 in fines and fees. When she couldn’t pay, the city disposed of her car.
We also now represent Lewrance Gant, a retired limousine driver who lent his car to a longtime friend. When police discovered the friend’s license had been suspended for unpaid tickets and allegedly found a bag of marijuana with him, they impounded the car. Again, the charges were dropped, but the city still demands Lewrance pay thousands of dollars to get his car back—even though he had no knowledge that his friend had broken the law.
With our case set to go before a judge next year, we are pushing forward aggressively to help all Chicagoans and to stop impound abuses.