Chicago Impounds Your Car As Part Of "Investigation," Holds It Hostage

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the City of Chicago on behalf of people whose cars were impounded as part of a police investigation — and then charged outrageous fees to get their vehicles back. The lawsuit covers 15,000 people whose cars were impounded by the city over a five year period.

WBEZ Chicago interviewed someone whose car was impounded in a case of mistaken identity:

JARRETT: I come down, half of the Chicago Police department got the whole sidewalk blocked off.

The police wanted to know about her car. She was talking to the cops in the blue shirts when a commanding officer joined the conversation.

JARRETT: The white shirt got out. He said this car has an “APB” out on it. I said an “APB” for what. He said to seize the car and seize all occupants.

The car was taken and Jarrett says she spent about 26 hours in jail for what was essentially a case of mistaken identity. The detective who had put out the APB came to interview her.

JARRETT: She looked at me, she said you’re not who I’m looking for. I said I know I’m not who you lookin for. I said, “who are you looking for?” She said, “your sister Sharrice Jarrett.”

Jarrett says her sister is a drug addict who often uses her name when she’s picked up by the police. Once that was figured out, Jarrett was released but she still had to get her car. She thought it was a simple mix-up that could be sorted out easily. She went to the impound lot and talked to an officer in the trailer by the gate and asked him for a hearing.

JARRETT: He said okay, I’ll give you a hearing. So I’m thinking he fenna go get a judge. Somebody with some authority. He asked me, your name Vivian Jarrett…

PETERS: They’re not hearings. You can call up and say you have my car and you should never have taken my car and I really shouldn’t have to pay you any money for my car and by the way I have 25 witnesses including my priest and my husband’s rabbi, it makes no difference who the witnesses are. You always lose.

From personal experience, I know that this can also happen if someone steals your car. After it’s recovered — it can still mysteriously wind up in the impound.

Vivian Jarrett did eventually get her car back though it took almost two months and at $35 a day the storage fees added up quickly.

JARRETT: I got to pay you $2000 dollars for something that’s legally mine and I broke no laws. That’s crazy.

No, that’s Chicago.

Lawsuit Critical of Chicago Police Car Impound Practices [WBEZ]