Thursday, January 1, 2009

How To Stop The Stealing of Vehicles from Private Property

Since the towing industry is preempted by Federal Law for having to comply with civil statutes of the state, the only recourse is to increase the penalty for violating any part of the Texas Towing Law. Currently, towing companies are taking advantage of consumers in parts of Texas, because law enforcement is not going to dedicate staffing for a Class C Misdemeanor.

Therefore, if we are to expect any changes in attitude among the known problem towing companies in the state, the penalty for violating the Texas Towing Law needs me a Class B Misdemeanor. If it is shown on the trial of a Class B misdemeanor that the defendant has been before convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or any degree of felony, on conviction he shall be punished by: (1) a fine not to exceed $2,000; (2) confinement in jail for any term of not more than 180 days or less than 90 days; or (3) both such fine and confinement.

These increased penalties would be a needed tool to address the continued predatory towing practices that are occurring daily in cities across the state of Texas. The Legislature is going to have to makes several changes in the Towing Law, if we are to expect anything positive to change.

The parking facility is the responsible party for bringing their parking areas into compliance with the Texas Towing Law, at their expense. As we have it now, towing companies bribe property managers with perks such as free signage, free parking lot striping, free towing of office staff vehicles, and paid vacation to casinos. Of course, as it is today, due to Federal Preemption and a Class C Misdemeanor, towing companies are towing vehicles by the hundreds illegally because they know that the law enforcement agency is not going to do anything, much less allows a citizen to file an offense report for an illegal tow, to be investigated by a detective.

Since the wrecker drivers are now supposed to be licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation, if the current written test given to all applicants, does not include a question, such as: “can I tow vehicle without the vehicle owner’s consent for a permit violation with no red and white towing sign posted”? The answer should be no, and the wrecker driver has the responsibility upon entering a parking facility, that the red and white towing sign, is legal, and posted prior to towing the vehicle.

This licensing of Registered Sex Offenders and Murderers by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, for Occupation Licenses, must be stopped. A 17 year old female consumer calls for a tow truck and the driver of the tow truck who arrives is a Serial Rapist, but the 17 year old is not aware that the guy is a Registered Sex Offender. Is the State of Texas willing to risk bodily injury or even rape of a female consumer by licensing these convicts?

I recall that an Austin towing company employed a convicted murderer released on parole. This individual (Al Norman) blew up after vehicle owner’s wife started calling Norman a whole lot vulgar word, Norman approached the woman and struck her with a baseball bat, then turn on her husband still in a wheelchair and punched him 3 to 4 times before driving way their vehicle. After a couple of years in the courts, a judgment was rendered in the amount of $80,000, that towing company paid.

The argument that towing signs get knocked now, so do highway signs, the bottom line is of the sign is constructed with the right material and anchored in the ground, they will not be knocked down. Again, this is the responsibility of the parking facility, not the towing company.

The issue about where the tow hearing is to be heard by a Judge, as of now, the hearing is held in the precinct that the storage facility is located in. One of the reasons it changed in the last session of the Legislature was because I was ill much of the session, unable to attend the meetings. Now, this session being January 15th, I plan to lobby several members both in the house and senate, because these issues about illegal towing are a nonpartisan, I am sure that every member of the Legislature has heard about tragic event regarding towing.

In the original writing of “Rights to Stored Vehicle Owner” written by myself in 1995, specially called for the Tow Hearing to be heard in the precinct where the parking facility is located. The reason for this was to give residents, who are also voters, the right to have their Tow Hearing heard by a Justice of Peace near where they live.

As it now, in the Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, El Paso, Robstown, McAllen and even here in Austin, towing companies are towing vehicle to another city or different Justice of the Peace jurisdiction. It’s already been proven that several judges that hear towing case are recipients of big campaign contributors from the towing companies.

This mentality of it’s a civil matter needs to change!

If probable cause does not exist to take a $40,000 vehicle, a licensed wrecker driver, should be arrested, if he/she tows the vehicle, bottom line!

Until this industry obeys the Law, these problems we are seeing today will only get worse!